Alexandria: New Heights Approved for Oakville Triangle

Alexandria: New Heights Approved for Oakville Triangle

Building height restrictions along Route 1 traded for affordable housing and park renovations.

New height regulations along the Oakville Triangle.

New height regulations along the Oakville Triangle. Photo Contributed

For visitors to Alexandria from Arlington or D.C., Route 1 serves as the first gateway into the city. On the way in, the left side is undergoing a dramatic revitalization as the area prepares for the opening of the Potomac Yard Metro Station in 2020. However, many on Alexandria’s Planning Commission noted that off to the right: very little new growth or development has been proposed. At its Oct. 6 meeting, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve new guidelines for the Oakville Triangle/Route 1 corridor.

The commission supported the Mount Jefferson Park revitalization and 65 new units of affordable housing offered by the development.

The most controversial aspect of the plan was an increased height allowance. Though limited to the existing 45 feet maximum near residential developments, the allowance goes up to 100 feet for areas close to transit, which some residents say would cause the modern buildings to tower over the Oakville neighborhood.

“I’m concerned about the excessive heights,” said Bernadette Williams. “It’s making our corner of Del Ray feel a bit claustrophobic … this surrounds small, two-story homes with [tall] buildings. The Oakville Triangle Redevelopment proposal will permanently alter the skyline on three sides of our home.”

The general sentiment among the group of neighbors opposing the development at the meeting was that the changes to Oakville Triangle are part of the first step in the Potomac Yards development slowly edging in on the historic Del Ray neighborhood. But neighborhood concerns regarding the plan were not unanimous and even among the residents speaking out there was a general acknowledgement that the showing of dissatisfaction had not been as strong as they had hoped. However, despite the concerns surrounding the plans, residents noted that city staff had done extensive outreach to the community and took special care to gather citizen input.

The Planning Commission recognized the concerns of the citizens, but felt the benefits of the plan were too numerous to pass up.

“Affordable Housing is a big goal for the city,” said Maria Wasowski. “The important thing here is that there’s new affordable housing. We’re not losing housing and replacing it with some units. These are new and they will be welcome to the affordable housing stock. The park renovation is huge and we’re going to add that half acre, that’s a benefit to the whole community.”

Members of the commission also noted that the plans to gradually slope the building height eased their concerns regarding the citizens being overshadowed by the towers.

“We always talked about and hoped that Route 1 would be the gateway boulevard into Alexandria,” said Wasowski. “We need to change the character of Route 1 into a road that we can be proud of coming into Alexandria.”

But some residents of Oakville, already proud of their neighborhood, are not quite as optimistic. After the meeting, resident Keirsten Current expressed disappointment, not with staff, but with the neighbors who had said they disagreed with the plan but hadn’t shown up to the meeting.

“The height is really the main concern,” said Current. “We live there now because it’s different. We have the opportunity to make something unique. That’s what, long term, creates a destination… like Del Ray or Old Town. This has parks and bike paths, but it’s no different from D.C. I live in a 1930’s farm house, I don’t want to look out at a modern tower.”