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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Developers have big plans for Beauregard Corridor

The West End of Alexandria could become much more urban, with a high-density mix of multifamily housing, offices, hotels, and retail—and an improved transportation system—if the major property owners in the Mark Center area go ahead with their plans for redevelopment.

Representatives of several companies that own developments along Alexandria’s Beauregard corridor outlined how they would like to see the area developed at a community meeting Monday evening at the Hilton Mark Center Hotel. Don’t expect to see any major changes in the immediate future, however; the proposed development would be phased in over the next 30 years.

Meanwhile, local residents are bracing for the scheduled opening of the BRAC-133 facility next September, which will bring 6,400 Defense Department employees to the Beauregard corridor—along with a major traffic headache for anyone who lives, works, or travels through that area, including commuters from Annandale or elsewhere in Fairfax County.

Here are some of the plans outlined by developers:
  • The JBG Companies have long-term plans to transform the shopping center on Beauregard (the one with Giant) into a mixed-use development; replace the garden apartments nearby with a mix of townhouses and multifamily housing; build a hotel on Reading Avenue; transform Reading into a pedestrian-friendly “main street”; and create a new street parallel to Beauregard. (JBG owns properties throughout the D.C. area, including Fairmont Gardens in Annandale.)
  •  Duke Realty, which owns 12 office buildings along Mark Center Drive, has plans to develop a hotel/conference center and a shopping center.
  •  Home Properties owns the Seminary Towers high-rise at the Beauregard/Seminary intersection and the adjacent Seminary Hills garden apartment complex. It proposes tearing down Seminary Hills and replacing it with several five-story apartment buildings with a broader mix of unit sizes and rents.
  •  Hekemian and Co., which owns the Shirley Gardens community (the residents had joined together to sell) and the stand-alone Potomac Cleaners at the Beauregard/Seminary intersection, has plans to develop 250 townhouses and a small hotel on that site.
All the proposed development would result in about 2,395 additional residential units in 10 to 15 years and a cumulative increase of 4,300 over the next 30 years. The properties targeted for redevelopment have approximately 3.6 million square feet, and the developers are proposing a phased net increase of 6.9 million square feet over the next 30 years, said James Nozar of JGB.
The property owners acknowledged that transportation improvements must be an essential component in any redevelopment effort. Victor Dover, with the Dover, Kohl and Partners town planning firm, which is partnering with JBG, suggested Beauregard Street be widened to accommodate streetcars that could be connected to the Columbia Pike Transit Initiative, a streetcar line under development that would extend from Bailey’s Crossroads to Pentagon City. Under this model, Beauregard would have two lanes for cars and one transit lane in each direction, with a median in the middle for transit stops, plus bike lanes and wider sidewalks on either side.

Dover said the best option for dealing with the bottleneck at the Seminary/Beauregard intersection is to create a traffic circle with four synchronized traffic lights. Cars exiting I-395 onto Seminary intending to turn left onto Beauregard would instead turn right and travel around the circle. He said this rerouting of traffic would eliminate the lane changing that occurs now and would be more pedestrian friendly than an overpass.

The way the Beauregard area is currently developed, “it has density but it doesn’t have urbanity,” Dover said. “Healthy urbanism is more complete and more compact. Things are closer together on purpose.”

Catharine Puskar, an attorney who represents JBG and facilitated the meeting, asked local residents to rank their top priorities among a list that included such elements as transportation improvements, sustainability, affordable housing, athletic fields, community/civic facilities, enhanced street grid and streetscape, utility improvements, a fire station, improvements to Holmes Run, and open space. The results from that feedback will be discussed at a community meeting to be scheduled for January.

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