Original article by Alexandria Times, Margo Wagner, July 16, 2020
Alexandria City Council voted to amend the Braddock Road Metro Station Neighborhood Plan and rezone to allow for the construction of a five-story, mixed-use building at its July 7 public hearing.
The site is on the corner of North Henry and Wythe streets, and the building will consist of 94 residential units, including seven affordable housing units. It will also include underground parking and ground-floor retail. Currently, the space is a surface parking lot and a warehouse for Alexandria Lighting Supply. Both planning commission and city staff recommended approval of the project.
The project’s applicant is Avanti Holdings Group, a local developer led by native Alexandrian Teddy Kim. The group owns several commercial properties in Alexandria’s Parker-Gray district and has been involved in several redevelopment projects designed to reinvigorate the area.
At the hearing, several speakers, including six neighbors, signed up for the public testimony period to express their concerns about the project.
Isabelle Zorro, who has lived next to the site since 1994, expressed concern about the noise and the height of the building.
Ronald Carter, another neighbor, said surrounding property owners were not adequately informed about the project. He also expressed concern about building a five-story building in a historic neighborhood.
“I am shocked, disappointed and concerned that no consideration was made to the aesthetics of our historic neighborhood,” Carter said.
The attorney for the applicant, Cathy Puskar, assured city council that her client notified the neighbors within the the required time and has been working with neighborhood groups. She also said that Kim is committed to keeping the community’s interests at heart.
Neighbor Jariel Rendell was supportive of the project but said the building did not include enough affordable housing.
“This is not an appropriate, sufficient affordable housing allocation given the times that we are in with the unprecedented unemployment,” Rendell said.
Councilor Mo Seifeldein agreed that affordable housing is a concern of his but ended up voting to amend the plan and allow the building.
Other concerns posed by the neighbors included traffic, privacy and construction vibrations damaging the foundations of historic houses.
Puskar answered the concerns by stating that the building is consistent with the Braddock Road Metro Station Neighborhood Plan and the building is in compliance with the city’s requirements for affordable housing.
“While I appreciate the neighbors saying they are not opposed to the development, requests to change the height and density of this building would render the project unviable,” Puskar said.
Additionally, Avanti Holdings plans to donate money to the Housing Trust Fund, the Braddock Community Amenities Fund, the Braddock Open Space Fund and the City’s Capital Bike Share Fund to address concerns about community benefit. Puskar also said that adjacent property owners can receive a pre-construction assessment of their home in case there is damage to the home cased by the vibrations from construction.
“I really appreciate the input that was provided. I think it informed the final product and we really appreciate the thoughtful engagement that happened on this,” Mayor Justin Wilson said.