Developer Q&A: Alexandria Roundup
From Potomac Yard to Old Town to Eisenhower Avenue, Alexandria's pipeline is full of new developments that will bring thousands of new residents and change the retail makeup of the area. Several of the city's top developers gathered last month at Bisnow's Future of Alexandria event to discuss their vision for the next wave of development. Here are four excerpts from developers with major Alexandria projects in the works.
JBG Smith Vice President of Development Robert Vaughan on the recent design changes for the delayed construction of a new Metro station at Potomac Yard, where the developer is planning 7.5M SF of mixed-use development on the site of a 69-acre retail center:
"Regarding the Metro news, I think all of it is very positive in that it’s actually going to move forward, which is the single most significant thing. Relative to the design changes based on the [plan] that the staff sent out, it seems like the public commentary was received and the pedestrian entrance is going to be included at the intersection of East Glebe. In terms of the functioning of how the Metro station is going to interact with the urban environment around it, we don’t think the changes will be too dramatic.
"In terms of how it changed our development outlook, now we’re trying to marry our development timeline with the projected opening of Metro. We think we’ve been successful to date in developing multifamily sites as well as attracting new association headquarters to come to the area, and now we really need Metro to continue to give us that momentum to move forward and fill out the rest of plots."
JM Zell CEO Jeff Zell, who hopes to move forward soon on a 34-story residential tower as part of his 6-acre Carlyle Plaza Two development, on the benefits high-density development brings to Alexandria's Eisenhower Avenue corridor:
"Since we started 25 years ago, the key was a properly designed urban development in a suburban location with Metro as the urban core. With the start of Carlyle, at that point we had the highest buildings in the city at 150 feet and we fought to get the Patent and Trade Office at 225 feet built.
"Now we’re at 375 feet with our vertical tower. I think as the density comes in with population, and that helps retail, I think it's going to be a very vibrant community. It’s just a matter of connecting the corridor between Eisenhower at Carlyle and Hoffman Town Center, which is a pretty easy connection and we know where the density’s going to go. I think what you’ll see here is the tallest buildings in Northern Virginia in a stack that no other area allows. We’re going to deliver quality product, the highest quality in the marketplace, and at the end of the day it’ll become the most dynamic corridor when it's fully finished."
“One project everybody talks about from a retail perspective is Bethesda Row, the square footage there is about 400K SF. When we deliver ours, and [Perseus TDC] delivers theirs and with what’s already there, we’ll be close to 400K SF. That is a complete dynamic change. You’ve got two great anchors with the movie theater and Wegmans. Those are the things you want to build on. It’s going to work great for getting PTO people and NSF people out of their office. [JM Zell's] folks are going to walk down the street to the movies. That’s all going to work. But you’ve got to build a brand.
"The blessing and curse of this area is nothing is small. Everything has got to be massive and if you do that you’ve got to compete in a way that’s going to be much more broad. I think it is about how we form a way to operate as an area. When you have a formal group that operates like NoMa BID, when you have that vehicle, it works. And every time I’ve done it I've voted to tax myself because it works. That’s the way you change the dynamic and make this a major regional competitive thing that will fulfill its potential."
Paradigm Cos. President Stanley Sloter, whose company has delivered three apartment buildings on the Eisenhower Avenue corridor since 2007 and has another 404-unit project in the works, on how the residential makeup of the area is changing:
"When we rented Eisenhower Station 10 years ago, these were largely Metro-oriented residential projects. At the time, about 75-80% of our units had somebody take the Metro every day. So we oriented ourselves to be a bedroom community to places where people went to work. If we could deliver quality housing at an affordable price, people would choose that.
"The real dynamic that’s changed in the last year, we now have 15% of our population walk to work and another 15% work from home three to four days a week. So they’re really choosing a place to live, because they could live anywhere with that kind of work schedule. I think that that’s increasing.
"From a residential design standpoint, that means we’ve got to design our buildings to accommodate how people are going to live in those buildings if they’re going to be there all the time. In our community as a whole, we’ve got to create places where people want to choose to live not just because it's next to a Metro station. The dynamic is very clear, that’s where we’re headed and we’ve got to think of ourselves that way if we’re going to be successful."