Proposed redevelopment.

Alexandria is poised this Saturday to give the nod to a major redevelopment proposal in the Arlandria neighborhood. The proposal has been over a decade in the making, and is the result of a long and difficult process by a dedicated community.

Part 1 of this series discussed the vision plan adopted a decade ago. Now, with many of the players still in place, that vision is ready to become a reality.

The plan to redevelop Arlandria’s Mount Vernon Village Center addresses many of the goals of the original vision, and overcomes the challenges presented in the feasibility study from 3 years ago that suggested redevelopment was not possible.

Redevelopment proposal compared to the original Arlandria vision plan.

Details of the proposal

The proposal, by Arlandria Center, LLC, is for a mixed-use development consisting of 450 multifamily residential units and 50,000 square feet of retail. The retail will face Mount Vernon Avenue and will replace the existing strip mall retail.

The plan includes streetscape improvements to Mt. Vernon Avenue and Bruce Street, including street trees, new bus shelters, and widening of the sidewalk.

The high-quality, contemporary architecture is in compliance with new green building standards and incorporates affordable housing units for households earning less than 60% of the area’s median income.

The property also improves access and visibility to Four Mile Run Park, and will add eyes and activity to the street, thus deterring and reducing the perception of crime.

Parking is proposed to be underground. According to city code, 940 spaces were required and will be built. If the parking turns out to be in surplus, subsequent developments may have the opportunity to use some of these spaces rather than build their own.

If approved, the development will be built using a phased approach that retains as much existing retail as possible. Stores on the northern portion of the site could choose to remain in operation while the southern portion is under construction.

Community Benefits

The plan fulfills the Arlandria plan requirement for 10-15% open space: 10% of the property would be reserved for public open space and another 5% would be for resident use. The building would be set back back 40 feet from Mt. Vernon Avenue. The building will be pulled back 5 additional feet on Bruce Street to create better access to Four Mile Run Park and better vehicular access to stores and residences.

The project would also fund up to $200,000 for new tennis/basketball courts, which would be relocated per the Four Mile Run Park master plan. Another 7,000 square feet of the property along the park would be reserved for a pedestrian promenade with the potential for a future road. The development would also improve the site’s facilities for stormwater runoff.

The development conforms to all of the standards set out in terms of bulk, setback and open space, but extends 7 feet above the height limit at the property’s center in order to accommodate 28 units of affordable housing.

Both the residential and commercial portions of the property would be built to LEED green building standards.

The project also includes more than $51,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars annually for Transportation Demand Management (TDM) measures to keep single occupant vehicle trips from the development to less than 40% of total trips. Additionally, the project will provide new bus shelters with real-time bus arrival data, on-site bicycle amenities, and a Capital Bikeshare station. The developer would also provide a 20% employee transit subsidy.

As other redevelopments come online, this property will also be required to partner with others to create a Transportation Management District charged with further improvements to transit.

The proposal also meets the design guidelines from the Four Mile Run Restoration Plan, which calls for buildings to activate the stream and be visually interesting.

Challenges and Opportunities

Right now, the area is awash in a sea of empty parking lots and people-second design. The vision and proposed redevelopment will change all that.

Mt. Vernon Avenue in Arlandria is not a highway, nor even a high capacity road. At its best, it could be an urban boulevard with wide sidewalks, easy pedestrian crossings, and slow moving traffic.

The Arlandria vision of pedestrian-and-transit-oriented development is the antidote to the problems created by sprawl-induced cut-through traffic. This development proposal will help achieve that vision. It will help the neighborhood achieve its long-time goals of becoming and sustaining a safe, walkable, and inclusive community.

We feel this is a great opportunity to make Arlandria one of Alexandria’s greatest success stories. We strongly support the proposed development, and encourage the city to approve it.

Kevin Beekman, Melissa Garcia and Nick Partee contributed to this article.

Kevin Beekman is an economist living in Alexandria, Virginia whose work focuses on travel and transportation forecasting. Long of advocate of environmental issues, smart growth, and social justice, Kevin had been involved in community building projects for a decade, in Arlandria, standing up for the neighborhood that Alexandria almost forgot. A member of the Four Mile Run Restoration Task Force and co-founder of the Four Mile Run Farmers and Artisans Market, he is also the editor of the Arlandrian a blog about the long neglected cluster of neighborhoods between Del Ray, Arlington Ridge, Shirlington and Crystal City. Bounded by Glebe & Glebe, Rt 1 & Four Mile Run, Arlandria is where Arlington and Alexandria meet (and try to get acquainted).