The Alexandria Planning Commission gave its unanimous seal of approval Tuesday night for the Virginia Theological Seminary to build a new chapel to replace one that burned in 2010.
The new, 20,000-square-foot chapel will be certified LEED Silver and have a 100-foot-tall steeple. The seminary also has plans to renovate and build a 900-square-foot addition to Packard-Laird Hall, which serves as its welcome center.
The new chapel will be built between the welcome center and the Federal House. The plan also includes improvements to the Seminary Road entrance, reconfiguration of some parking spaces and traffic circulation improvements.
The chapel’s design incorporates the architectural history of Anglican churches in Virginia and includes elements of Georgian and Romanesque styles, according to city documents. The facade would be made of red brick.
Two people spoke at a brief public hearing before the commission’s vote, including Nan Jennings, president of the Seminary Hill Association.
“We were all saddened by the tragic loss of the historic chapel,” Jennings said. “The new chapel promises to meet the needs of the seminary in the 21st century while maintaining harmony with the architecture of the existing buildings.”
Immanuel Church on the Hill, which is located directly across from the seminary, sent a letter of support to the commission urging them to approve the new chapel. “We have seen the architect’s renderings of this project and believe it fits the character of the Seminary and of the neighborhood,” the letter stated.
The seminary, one of the oldest educational institutions in Northern Virginia, was established in Old Town Alexandria in 1823. Shortly thereafter, the seminary moved to its current location at the intersection of Seminary Road and Quaker Lane, according to the city.
The previous Immanuel Chapel, which was built in 1881, burned in an October 2010 fire. The fire left the seminary with no house of worship, and a temporary chapel was set up in the basement of the Bishop Payne Library.
Remaining portions of the burned chapel are being saved to incorporate into a memorial garden.