'Underground' Shopping Proposed

'Underground' Shopping Proposed

Braddock Road Metro Area's "urban village" continues to evolve.

A massive mixed-use-development-project was introduced to community members of the Braddock Road Metro Area last month. The project, however, raised concerns among residents, Alexandria Planning Commission, and Department of Planning and Zoning.

At an estimated 400,000 total square feet, it surpasses its nearest competitor by approximately 100,000 square feet. Known as "The Madison," it will encompass retail, commercial and residential uses and is expected to generate approximately $1.5 million in annual tax revenue for the city. It and an adjacent mixed-use-development, known as "The Hennage," are integral parts of the Braddock Road Metro Small Area Plan.

"The community is excited about this development and Harris Teeter coming to this area but they and the commissioners raised the issue of the mass and scale of the project at the meeting," Said Eileen Fogarty, director, Alexandria Planning and Zoning Department. "It's about four times the size of everything around it on three sides. Those building range in size between 25 and 45 feet. This one is 70 to 90 feet in height," Fogarty said.

The retail anchor for the block-and -a -half-long structure, is a 53,500 square-foot Harris Teeter grocery store which will be located below ground at the south end of the structure bounded by North Henry, Madison, and North Fayette streets. By building it below ground, with substantial parking above ground, the developers, Capital Associates of Alexandria, have excluded over 100,000 square feet of floor-area-ratio from consideration.

Parking is not counted by the city in calculating floor-area-ratio in "the allowable zoning envelope," according to Fogarty. "It is significantly larger in mass than, for example, The Hennage, which is 60 feet in height and approximately 100,000 square feet of above-ground-use smaller," Fogarty said.

THE HENNAGE, another mixed-use-project containing retail and residential uses, presently under construction, is located three blocks south of The Madison. It is bounded by North Henry, North Fayette, Oronoco and Pendelton streets. "The Madison," The Braddock Metro Small Area Plan section of the City could get three million square-feet of development.

"We want to make sure these new building fit into the plan," she said.

David Kitchens of Cooper Carry Architects, Inc., designer of "The Madison," sees it as "the only true mixed-use-project in that area. This attempts to put a destination retailer [Harris Teeter] in the area."

According to Kitchens, "For a project to be a true mixed use it must incorporate three uses: retail, commercial/office, and residential. Here we are attempting to have our major retailer not interfere with the street and to have true public open-space. We have tried to bring the open space out to the street."

Attorney Duncan Blair, representing the developers, said, "The Madison is designed as an urban village. It is a very mixed-use, transit-oriented project that will hopefully be approved." It is expected to come before the Planning Commission this autumn. The below ground positioning of the Harris Teeter grocery "allows us to place a major grocery store in an urban area without having cars in a lot at street level," said C. Meade Rhoads, associate partner, Capital Associates.

"To get to the store, customers can either take an elevator or drive to the lower-level parking on the store-level 20 feet below the street. There are 150 parking spaces allocated on that level for Harris Teeter," Rhoads said. "There will be a skylight at the street level so that people will be able to see down into the grocery store. We are also envisioning a walkway at street-level over the store to serve as a connection to the open-space-area on Madison Street," he said.

AS PRESENTLY DESIGNED, the project calls for approximately three acres of green space with approximately 280,000 square feet of use built out. It is located 950 feet from the Braddock Metro Station, according to Rhoads.

"This project is drawing off that metro station," he said. In addition to the subterranean grocery store, there will be approximately 20,000 square-feet of retail/commercial, office space at street-level with three to six stories of residential above. The structure varies in height along its length.

"There will be residential parking on upper levels with an anticipated 1.2 spaces allotted to each of the estimated 300 residential units. The total project will be able to accommodate 500 to 600 vehicles," Rhoads said.

"The Madison" Condominium units will average approximately 1,000 square feet. Upon completion we will continue to own and mange the retail/commercial space. The condominium association will operate the residential portion," he said. In addition to the tax revenue, it is estimated by Capital Associates that the project will generate an additional 310 "permanent jobs" between Harris Teeter, street level retail and property management. These will be supplemented by another 306 construction jobs until completion.

One of the main concerns expressed by the Planning Commission at the April 19 community work session was the fact that Montgomery Street remains a dead end at North Henry Street. Presently at that spot is an old warehouse and paved parking lot.

"There is ongoing discussion with the developers about opening this to Fayette Street," Fogarty said. "The model was brought to us about a week ago and we are looking at it right now."

Rhoads said, "Nothing about this project is set in stone. This is about the seventh design iteration. It is a concept right now. This is an under-served retail location. This will provide a retail/town center, a pedestrian streetscape and create a sense of place."