Alexandria City Council on Saturday approved a plan to build a 99-foot-high, 10-story rental apartment building on Madison Street, about 500 feet east of the .
Council voted 6-0 to approve the plan, with Councilman Rob Krupicka absent from the meeting due to another commitment.
City staff had recommended that council approve an alternative plan for an eight-story, 77-foot-high building but council largely decided to go with the other option because it includes 10 units of affordable housing “to remain affordable for 40 years,” according to plan documents.
This plan for Braddock Metro Place, which will be part of the Braddock Small Area Plan, “makes sense here” said Councilwoman Alicia Hughes, including the significant height and density, although those features don’t make sense “everywhere in the city,” she said.
Vice Mayor Kerry Donley later agreed, saying: “If you’re going to have density, you’re going to want it over by the metro stations.”
The council members discussed at length the parking related to the building and expressed concern over how it could impact the surrounding neighborhood.
Ultimately, Donley said the plan could be approved with an amendment that residents couldn’t apply for a residential parking permit but guests and visitors would be eligible. The new development will have a parking garage and seeks to use other adjacent garages for the building’s future residents.
The new building will include 165 residential units and 151 parking spaces.
The Braddock Metro Neighborhood Plan establishes a maximum height of 77 feet on this site, but a section of the zoning ordinance allows an increase in height as an incentive to include affordable housing.
The plan, which is on the site of the former Parker-Gray School, includes about 10,000 square feet of open space “designed as a passive park, with pedestrian paths, an oval-shaped lawn landscaping, pedestrian-scale lighting and seating areas."
The closest grocery store will be the yet-to-be-built Harris Teeter on Madison Street about a half-mile away. Councilwoman Del Pepper said she hoped more and closer retail and other amenities would be available to the building's residents.
President Glenn Hopkins supported the plan: “We’re starving for affordable housing in Alexandria,” adding that those type of units have shrunk from 18,000 in the city to 6,000.
But Nancy Hughes, a past president of the Braddock Place Homeowners Association, said she preferred the 77-foot structure and characterized the project as “putting a 10-pound potato into a five-pound sack” because the building will be so tall and on a site that’s only just more than an acre.
She also objected to the new building’s party area, which includes a swimming pool, saying it could be noisy.
The final plan includes those features.
Councilman Paul Smedberg lamented that the building looks boring and said he craved more interesting detail on these new buildings. “We’re building neighborhoods here,” he said.
Mayoral candidate Andrew Macdonald (I) said the plan “doesn’t get the ingredients right” for the city, including its failure to add open space.
“There’s a separation between the concept of smart growth and what we mean by a livable community,” he said. “We’re trying to cram too much into these spots.”
Donley shot back: “I appreciate the platitudes, euphemisms and generalities…but this region has invested billions of dollars over transportation infrastructure” and noted that Macdonald testified against the plans to develop the Patent and Trademark building “which as brought in millions of dollars and created a walkable neighborhood.”
Mayor Bill Euille, who is running against Macdonald to keep his seat, asked Macdonald how many meetings related to this plan Macdonald had attended.
Macdonald said he had read all the material but had not gone to every meeting.
“I’m coming here today to express my concerns about the plan,” he said.