Old Town Alexandria’s Board of Architectural Review will discuss next week designs unveiled to the public Wednesday of Carr Hospitality’s proposal to build a 121-room hotel on Union Street.
The new designs, available online via the city’s website (PDF), show three possible constructions of a new hotel, with the third option “the best we have seen,” according to architect and Historic Preservation Manager Al Cox with the city’s Department of Planning and Zoning.
At the July 25 meeting, the BAR will debate over the general architectural character of the proposal including its scale and mass. However, the board does not have the authority to determine its use, such as whether it should be a hotel or condo, for example.
Cox said staff favors a structure reflecting “warehouse character” because that’s what the guidelines recommend for the area. He also liked the proposal for offering more green, open courtyard and said it would make the yet-to-be named and constructed public alley that’s part of the project “a lot more inviting.” However, he reiterated that staff was not making a “recommendation” on that particular structure, just reviewing the presentation.
He also liked the applicant’s option because it replicates a warehouse-style building seen in an old photograph of a site next door to the proposed development site at 220 S. Union St.
Cox noted that the new structure must follow the area’s building height limit of 50 feet above average finished grade. He explained that a building generally does not sit on uniform grade. On Union Street the building may measure at 48 feet for example, but on the Strand it could be 52 feet high or more as measured from a flat roof to the ground. There also may be other reasons a particular site could require a building's height to deviate slightly, he said.
The Carr proposal dated June 25 showed a planned hotel height of 59 feet.
In the Potomac River vicinity height district, there’s a 30-foot height limit but with a special permit a builder is allowed to go as high as 50 feet if the proposal meets certain architectural standards, uses high quality materials and recalls historic warehouse designs, among other things.
“Many town homes at Harborside are 54 to 57 feet high, which is not an unusual height,” Cox said. “Many of the historic buildings on the waterfront are much taller than you can build today.”
The 7:30 p.m. BAR meeting will address the issue after considering other items on the docket and will take public comment on the matter.