A New Approach for an Adaptive Reuse in Virginia Reaps Social and Financial Dividends

Lines of Sight

Views to the Potomac River; Washington, D.C., skyline; and city of Alexandria were the major amenities, so decks, balconies and terraces play prominently in the project—the largest of the outdoor spaces extends 1,000 square feet. For Jackson, one of the project’s most surprising features turned out to be the views away from the river. “Alexandria is built with mostly lower 4-story townhomes, which gave this 77-foot-high building sweeping views on the city side. They’re much more spectacular than I imagined; in fact, they’re absolutely remarkable,” he asserts.

Views to the Potomac River; Washington, D.C., skyline; and city of Alexandria are the major amenities, so decks, balconies and terraces play prominently in the project—the largest of the outdoor spaces extends 1,000 square feet.

Views to the Potomac River; Washington, D.C., skyline; and city of Alexandria are the major amenities, so decks, balconies and terraces play prominently in the project—the largest of the outdoor spaces extends 1,000 square feet.

Public Acceptance

While zoning allowed 119 units, EYA opted for 60 larger units, ranging in size from 1,700 to 3,500 square feet. Of the 60 total units, there are more than 40 floor plans. Jackson says the variety stems from a desire to maximize each unit for its particular location. Sometimes bedrooms were moved to provide master-bedroom views and the best space dimensions or to capitalize on the most appealing deck views.

“We are a very design-oriented company and we spent a lot of time collaborating on every floor plan’s details,” Jackson says. “In each unit, we created a little entry area that captures a great view the second you walk into the space—it might be a great view to the overall space or a sweeping one to the outdoors.”

Buyers have the option of two- or three-bedroom condominiums. Some of the floor plans include a library or family room, and all units have dedicated outdoor space in the form of ground-level terraces, decks, balconies or upper-level terraces. Opaque-glazed panels between terraces and decks offer privacy screening yet allow light to permeate. Every home has a gas fireplace and some feature cleverly designed two-sided hearths that open to the exterior space so they can be enjoyed from the terrace/deck, as well.

EYA chose a boutique hotel design aesthetic with high-quality, minimalist finishes. Depending on the unit, interior appointments include hardwood flooring of oak and Brazilian ipe; quartz kitchen countertops and 14-foot-long kitchen islands; a wet bar with built-in wine cooler; and advanced home automation systems easily accessed through Wi-Fi.

Communal amenities include a grand, 2-story lobby with concierge services; 24-hour front desk security; a fitness center with yoga room; and a bicycle storage area with a bicycle-maintenance station. With the Mt. Vernon Trail minutes away, the team created 50 bike-storage spaces that are always in high demand. Jackson says the people of Alexandria love their pets so they also added two dog-washing stations.

The project also has two community rooms, a kids’ room with flat-screen TVs and gaming consoles; and a heated outdoor pool with a bathhouse and outdoor kitchen and entertainment area.

Opaque-glazed panels between terraces and decks offer privacy screening yet allow light to permeate.

Opaque-glazed panels between terraces and decks offer privacy screening yet allow light to permeate.

The Oronoco is the first housing project along this stretch of the Potomac waterfront in 12 years and it had its share of skeptics. EYA had been building residential projects in Alexandria since the 1990s, however, and Jackson asserts that his team knew what the market was missing. “We know our customers and saw the demand for grand, one-level living on the river,” he notes. “With units costing $1.6 to $4.5 million, we set some records in terms of pricing here, but it’s proven that you can draw sophisticated clientele to these projects.”

Jackson remembers some concerns voiced about residential living generating low taxes with high demand for services. Because The Oronoco attracted many empty nesters, there was no need for additional schools and no major infrastructure changes were needed as many Old Town amenities are within walking distance or a river taxi ride away. “The higher cost of the units generated a lot of tax revenue for relatively low services and the market acceptance of the project was more enthusiastic than I could have hoped for,” Jackson says. “In addition, a lot of people didn’t like the aesthetics of the former building and were pleased with its physical transformation.”

The Oronoco turned out to be a timely win-win for Alexandria. The shoreline gained a rejuvenated and vibrant condominium community in place of an outdated, vacated building, and the project’s residents are benefiting from the city’s waterfront plan improvement efforts.

PHOTOS: www.ThomasArledge.com

Retrofit Team

Developer: EYA, Bethesda, Md.
Architect: Shalom Baranes Associates, Washington, D.C.
Interior Architect: SR/A Interior Architects and Design, Chevy Chase, Md., (301) 560-3700
Landscape Architect: Studio 39, Alexandria, Va.
General Contractor: James G. Davis Construction, Washington
Civil Engineer: Bowman Consulting Group, Chantilly, Va.
Structural Engineer: TCE & Associates Inc., Silver Spring, Md.
Building Envelope & Waterproofing: Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger, Washington
Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing: Provectus, Inc., Falls Church, Va., (703) 823-4694
Lighting: Coventry Lighting, Canfield, Ohio
Acoustics: Polysonics, Warrenton, Va.
Masonry Installer: Ramsey Masonry, Fredericksburg, Va.
Window Installer: Fairfax Glass, Falls Church

Materials

Stone Manufacturer: Luck Stone
Window Manufacturers: Peerless (majority of windows) and Kawneer (storefront applications)
Metal Panel Manufacturer: Alcoa (Reynobond)

About the Author

KJ Fields
KJ Fields writes about design, sustainability and health from Portland, Ore.

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