280-Unit Project Along Richmond Highway

NEWS   |  June 17, 2021

Fairfax County, VA

Mount Vernon Gateway

Another development is in the works along the Richmond Highway corridor, where a new transit line and land use plan are intended to spur economic growth.

Elm Street Development filed plans with Fairfax County for a 280-unit apartment project at the intersection of Richmond Highway and Buckman Road.

The developer is under contract to buy the site, and it is also looking to purchase a series of adjacent properties that could accommodate townhouses, Elm Street Vice President Jim Perry told Bisnow. He said he aims to break ground on the multifamily project by the first half of 2023 and deliver it by the end of 2024.

The five-story multifamily project would be built on a 5-acre site previously occupied by eight single-family homes. It would have a structured parking garage and an interior courtyard.

The amenities would include an outdoor pool and grilling area, a fitness center, a dog care salon, a resident lounge and a gaming area. If the developer moves forward with the adjacent townhouses, Perry said the buyers would have access to the building’s amenities.

The project would also create a park at the Richmond Highway-Buckman Road intersection that would be available to the public.

“The Buckman-Richmond intersection will be a major intersection with a full signal, so we wanted to provide an open space area as a central focus of that intersection that would be available not only for our residents but people taking advantage of the pedestrian opportunities the county is creating,” Perry said.

The county in 2018 passed the Embark Richmond Highway transportation and land use plan. The plan calls for building a bus rapid transit system and creating a series of community hubs with high-density development around the stops. It also calls for improving the bicycle and pedestrian experience along the corridor.

“We’ve always been a big fan of the corridor for redevelopment, and the county is investing a lot of resources in the corridor with its Embark project,” Perry said. “We like the corridor for its proximity to employment, retail and the Beltway, and we’d love to find other redevelopment opportunities down there.”

Elm Street has partnered with Alexander Co. on multiple projects in the area, including the redevelopment of the Old Mount Vernon High School at 8333 Richmond Highway and the redevelopment of a former prison in Lorton.

Other developers have moved forward with projects near the Huntington Metro station, the eastern terminus of the Embark Richmond Highway plan, and along other portions of the corridor. In April, Lennar Multifamily Communities filed plans for a 470-unit project near the intersection of Richmond Highway and North Kings Highway.

“With all the development in the pipeline up at the Huntington Metro that is certainly going to change that area dramatically,” Perry said. “As the county pushes forward the Embark project along Richmond Highway, we think it’s going to get nothing but better. The more redevelopment there, the better.”

NEWS   |  May 12, 2021

Washington, DC

Penn Branch

Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners has leased nearly all of the empty retail and office space at The Shops at Penn Branch — more than four years after it reached across the Anacostia River to acquire the property formerly known as the Penn Branch Shopping Center — thanks to a flurry of deals with tenants including Chipotle and a cajun restaurant from the owner of D.C.’s Po Boy Jim.

The D.C.-based developer has signed about 9,000 square feet of retail leases at the 89,000-square-foot center, located at 3200 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, and has fully leased the property’s 16,000 square feet of second-floor office space to a mix of local and national tenants. That activity builds on momentum Jair Lynch hoped to generate when it signed a 20,000-square-foot lease with Planet Fitness in 2017. Since then, with the aid of property management and retail leasing firm Rappaport, it has sought a mix of neighborhood-supporting merchants to fill out the remaining space, said President and CEO Jair Lynch.

The center was previously home to a D.C. Municipal Services Center and a substation of the Metropolitan Police Department.

The developer spent about $7 million to renovate the property, which was more than half empty when Jair Lynch acquired it, and those steps helped support the property’s existing merchants and draw new ones to the site, Lynch said. The anchor fitness center has also helped generate additional foot traffic, even during the pandemic.

“Hillcrest and Penn Branch are these strong, home-based communities that need services and need foods, especially if they’re not going out to restaurants, and the ability to get food delivered to them,” Lynch said. “We invested in the property, so we improved everything from sidewalks to signage to storefronts, and allowed the existing restaurants to survive. As a result of that, we’re able to show that there’s daytime traffic that’s in the area, and I think that has really helped the retailers get comfortable with it.”

Joining fast-food chain Chipotle, which announced ambitious expansion plans on Monday, are: Shark’s Fish and Chicken, replacing the former Star Pizza; a pair of brands from the Black-owned Miskiri Hospitality Group, Miss Toya’s Soul Juice and Miss Toya’s Southern Cajun Kitchen; and Highlands Café, from Penn Branch resident and chef Moe Garay, whose first restaurant opened along the 14th Street corridor in Northwest D.C. in 2008.

Chef Jeffeary Miskiri of D.C.-based Miskiri Hospitality Group is behind other restaurants, including Po Boy Jim and is expanding to the Hyattsville Arts District with Suga & Spice. He said in a statement his company is committed to serving the communities where its businesses are located and looked forward to opening at Penn Branch.

Jair Lynch, with the aid of Civitas Commercial Real Estate Services, has also landed office tenants including the D.C. Office of State Superintendent of Education, Bluerock Care, North Capitol Collaborative and KBEC Group. Combined, those retail and office leases bring the center to about 96% leased.

The leases were signed over a period from June 2019, for the State Superintendent of Education, to earlier in May, for Miss Toya’s. Representing the tenants in those deals were: Sean Harcourt, H&R Realty, for Chipotle; Marc Rosendorf, Rosendorf Group, for Miss Toya’s; Fletcher Gill and Victor Dambrosia, The Genau Group; for North Capitol; Adrian Dominguez, Gittleson Zuppas Medical Realty, for Bluerock; and Timothy Foley, Studley, for the State Superintendent.

NEWS   |  February 12, 2021

Arlington, VA

Columbia Pike View 12

Last summer, the public caught wind of upcoming plans to redevelop the Fillmore Gardens Shopping Center on Columbia Pike in Arlington. Now, UrbanTurf has learned what will come to that site.

A rezoning application has been filed to apply Columbia Pike-specific zoning to the property at 2601 Columbia Pike (map) in order to deliver The Elliott, a six-story building with 248 apartments with a new CVS pharmacy and a grocery store on the ground floor. Property owner Fillmore Center, LLC is partnering with Insight Property Group on the development.

The replacement CVS would be roughly 9,500 square feet and the grocery store would be about 30,000 square feet. The development would also have three levels of below-grade parking, including 162 shared and retail spaces and 250 residential parking spaces.

The unit mix at The Elliott would span from studios to two bedrooms, and the development would also have three courtyards, a pool, and a rooftop terrace. MV+A Architects is the designer. Additional renderings are below.

NEWS   |  February 1, 2021

Fairfax County, VA

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has approved the construction of an apartment building with ground-floor retail in Merrifield.

The project replaces a 1980s-era, three-story office building at 2722 Merrilee Drive with a seven-story, 85-foot-tall residential building with retail and recreational amenities.

Proposed by Elm Street Development under the name Merrilee Ventures, the apartment building will have 239 residential units and 30 units for retail use.

On Tuesday (Jan. 26), supervisors approved the developer’s request to reduce the site’s existing parking by 18% because it is close to the Merrifield-Dunn Loring Metro Station.

The Merrilee building will have 294 parking spaces, including 264 set aside for residents. Merrilee Drive and a planned private street will also have on-street parking.

Elm Street Development is providing 20,000 square feet of passive and active open space, including a retail plaza, an outdoor fitness area, and an expanded streetscape along Merrilee Drive.

“One of the opportunities for Merrifield is to simply link the [Dunn Loring Metro station] to the extensive retail amenities in the established urban core,” McGuireWoods managing partner Greg Riegle, a representative for Elm Street, said on Tuesday.

He further described the project as “an opportunity to promote that connectivity and set a template for the walkable streets, pedestrian amenities, and reasonable street-level retail that will make it an increasingly interesting and amenitized walk.”

During the meeting, Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik lauded the project because it will enhance the pedestrian experience and provide open spaces, including a much-needed dog park.

“I am pleased it resulted in a high-quality urban design that maximized indoor and outdoor amenities and publicly accessible spaces,” she said.

Elm Street Development is still working with Providence District to find .45 acres of space to develop into an urban park. The company is unable to meet a standard in Merrifield’s comprehensive plan that requires urban park space in new developments.

Staff calculated that .63 acres of on-site park space would be required, but Elm Street Development said only .17 acres fit on the site. So, the developer is looking to make up the remaining .45 acres elsewhere. If it can’t find that space, the developer will contribute $500,000 to Fairfax County Park Authority for future urban park spaces.

Those who worked on the project told the supervisors that the project revealed challenges in the urban park standards within the Merrifield Suburban Center Comprehensive Plan.

When approving the Merrilee project, Palchik asked Fairfax County staff to find new ways to achieve the plan’s vision for urban parks.

“The challenge of meeting the urban park standard within the application brought to light needs that, when addressed, will help realize the comprehensive plan’s vision for additional park resources here in Merrifield,” she said.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission unanimously approved the project on Dec. 9 after deferring the decision for a week over concerns about the urban park space requirements.

Although concerns over parking and stormwater management were raised during the planning commission’s public hearing in December, no public speakers came forward on Tuesday.

NEWS   |  January 26, 2021

Washington, DC

AIA Washington, DC | CANstruction

CANstruction D.C. voting is LIVE! Due to COVID-19, CANstruction unfortunately could not be held in person this year to build sculptures consisting of canned food. However, participating architecture and design firms were still able to submit their designs for judges and the public to view and vote on. Follow the link here to view all submissions and vote for MV+A to win the People’s Choice Award!  One dollar = one vote, and all donations go to The Capital Area Food Bank to continue providing millions of meals to people in communities across D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

This year’s CANstruction theme was “Children’s Books,” and the fifteen local participating firms purchased 18,610 cans – that is 22,000 meals donated to those in need. This is MV+A’s ninth year participating in CANstruction, and we were fortunate enough to still be able to participate in 2020. Our firm chose the popular children’s book, The Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor, written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen. Made popular by the animated 90’s TV series, The Magic School Bus and Ms. Frizzle educated children through crazy scientific and historical adventures. Here are MV+A’s can renderings, along with a pun-filled description, submitted to CANstruction’s 2020 competition:

Magic School Bus

Hop on the Magic School Bus with MV+A! With propeller and periscope, the ocean we CAN explore on our field trip to the sea. Look to your right, CAN you see the purple octopus swimming towards us? SCAN the ocean floor – so many BUSy ocean beings – casts of CANtankerous crabs CANnoodling in CANyons of seagrass, reefs of mollusCANs hiding their secret treasures from galaxies of starfish prowling for a meal. With Ms. Frizzle at the wheel of our magic hunger-BUSting BUS, we CANtrived to BUSt through with our blockBUSter magic inCANtation:

“We can BUSt hunger! 1, 2, 3, a roBUSt meal it CAN be! 4, 5, 6, CANs make the fix! 8, 9, 10 MV+A does it again! You never know what you CAN find on our field trips!”

Magic School Bus

Thank you again to The Washington Architectural Foundation and The Capital Area Food Bank for organizing this yearly competition. Don’t forget to donate and vote for MV+A!

NEWS   | November 5, 2020

Falls Church, VA

Broad & Washington | Fall Church, VA

Slowly but surely, the controversial Broad and Washington project in Falls Church is moving forward with only minor concerns from reviewing officials.

The Falls Church Planning Commission met with the Architectural Advisory Board last night for a joint work session to discuss the upcoming project — but while public concerns remain about parking and scale, the groups offered more praise than criticism of the project.

Staff noted in a presentation that the project had gone through significant changes to offer better open space and better use of street access. The project is also perhaps most notable as the planned home of a new Whole Foods and a permanent home for local performing and visual arts group Creative Cauldron.

Members of the Planning Commission and Architectural Advisory Board were mostly satisfied with changes that scaled the building better with the surrounding area. Chair of the Architectural Advisory Board noted that one side of the building facing Broad Street still had the unfortunate “slab” look of the earlier designs.

James Way, chair of the Architectural Advisory Board, also said the roadside public square planned in the project could have been better but he said he was also happy with what the city would get.

“Like the square,” Way said. “I always like to see more space but I understand financial constraints. I worry about spaces being too taken up with hard set features. [There] might be something to make it more flexible and adaptable to actual uses.”

The project is scheduled to come back to the city government on Wednesday, Nov. 18 for a vote.

NEWS   |  July 23, 2021

Washington, DC

WFM Florida Ave

A new 46,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market opened in D.C. Thursday with a Spike Mendelsohn restaurant located inside.

The Whole Foods at 967 Florida Ave. NW in Shaw is part of a mixed-use development, The Wren, that will have 433 apartment units, including 132 units of affordable housing. The Wren at 965 Florida Ave. NW broke ground in 2017 and is a joint venture between MRP Residential, JBG Smith (NYSE: JBGS), Fundrise and Ellis Development. The residential is expected to deliver in the fourth quarter this year.

Inside the Whole Foods lies Mendelsohn’s PLNT Burger restaurant, a plant-based fast-casual spot that first launched in Silver Spring. This store comes less than a month after the chain, which has the backing of Honest Tea founder Seth Goldman, opening the first location outside Greater Washington in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

“We are super excited about opening our fifth PLNT Burger inside Whole Foods Market,” Mendelsohn said in a statement. “This is the first PLNT Burger location that was specifically designed and opened with our store in mind.”

The Shaw Whole Foods provides a selection of options from local businesses such as fish from Ivy City Smokehouse, beer from Right Proper Brewing and Atlas Brew Works and pastries from Sweet & Natural in Mount Rainier.

The project near 9:30 Club and Howard University has been in the works for more than five years, with the developers first lining up a Harris Teeter grocery store before switching gears and landing Whole Foods.

The Austin-based grocer owned by Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) has more than 20 stores in Greater Washington, including one in Glover Park that has been closed for three years. Whole Foods is undertaking a full renovation of that store after a protracted court fight with its landlord, though it’s not clear when it will reopen. We’ve reached out to Whole Foods for more information on when Glover Park will reopen and will update this story if we hear back.

The most recent new store opening in the region for Whole Foods was its mid-Atlantic flagship store at The Boro in Tysons.

During the Covid-19 pandemic alone, Whole Foods has opened four other locations across the country in Austin, Colorado, New York City and Baltimore last month.

Whole Foods is the ninth-largest grocer in Greater Washington, with 4.46% market share in 2018, according to WBJ research. It posted $732.9 million in metro-area sales that year according to Food World.

NEWS   |   March 17, 2020

Washington, DC

MVA Office Covid-19

Dear valued MV+A clients, consultants, and partners:

In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) health emergency and in accordance with the CDC and local government guidelines, MV+A Architects has provided a means for all employees to safely and effectively work from home for the next several weeks. A work-from-home protocol went into effect on Monday, March 16th. While the office remains open to key personnel, our employees, and our community’s health and well-being are of the utmost concern. Any and all project meetings will be conducted remotely until further notice to create distancing as recommended by the CDC.

MV+A Architects remains committed to our clients, consultants, and projects, and appreciates the opportunity to stay busy during this tumultuous time. We are confident that the current circumstances will create minimal disruption to the dedication and delivery of our projects and deadlines.

To contact MV+A team members, please reach out via email or cell. Employee cell phone numbers are provided in their email signature. And please, reach out to me directly with any questions or concerns.

Thank you for entrusting MV+A. We are wishing good health to you and your families and look forward to providing our continued support and dedication.

Jim Voelzke, FAIA, LEED AP

NEWS   |   October 10, 2019

Leesburg, VA

Virginia Village | Leesburg, VA

Loudoun County has seen a surge in mixed-use development over the last few years, but that boom generally hasn’t included the town of Leesburg — until now.

A developer with a long history in the county, Keane Enterprises, is now advancing plans for the redevelopment of the aging Virginia Village shopping center into a mix of residential, retail and office space. The 18-acre strip mall has been a staple of the town dating back to the mid-1950s, and sits just a short walk from Leesburg’s historic downtown area.

Keane bought the property in 2017, and has been at work ever since drawing up plans to transform Virginia Village into a mixed-use space. The developer submitted plans to the town in late September for a development including up to 490 apartments, around 160 townhomes and condos, 105,000 square feet of office and 70,000 square feet of retail.

The town has tweaked its zoning rules over the last few years to allow for just this sort of mixed-use development, particularly as the sections of Loudoun along the Silver Line extension have seen massive growth. But Keane’s application will be a first for Leesburg, a factor that is sure to complicate the developer’s vision.

“This is a big thing for Leesburg, in terms of the size of it,” said Brian Cullen, Keane’s founding principal. “Hopefully this helps them understand how to better develop in this sort of way. That’s what they say they want and I think they’re going to need it.”

Cullen has kept his eye on the town’s growth over the years while working elsewhere in the county — his firm developed the Ashburn Ice House and the Willowsford community nearby in Aldie — and he’s become increasingly convinced that Leesburg is ready to move away from its “automotive-oriented” past.

He believes some townhomes built near the downtown core of Market Street have invigorated local shops and restaurants, and he’s heard anecdotally that town officials are eager to see more of that sort of development nearby. While Leesburg isn’t Metro accessible, Cullen nonetheless wants to embrace the sort of walkable ethos driving transit-oriented developments.

Considering the lack of apartment developments in the area, he foresees many service workers who are driving into town moving into such a development, rather than having to live in far-flung exurbs like Winchester or Charlestown, West Virginia. He hopes that will help many people walk to work, and further revitalize Leesburg’s downtown.

“We’ve got to be complementary to downtown, not competitive with downtown,” Cullen said. “It’s got to be frictionless to move in and out of those things in nonautomotive ways.”

While shops and restaurants will certainly be a big part of the new Virginia Village — Cullen envisions something like a gym standing alongside a variety of other eateries and retail — Keane is pitching open space as the main draw. The development is set to include two different parks at the center of the retail and residential buildings, in addition to an outdoor amphitheater that connects with a bicycle and pedestrian bridge stretching over to nearby Harrison Street.

“There’s really nowhere for people to just go hang out, outdoors,” Cullen said. “You want to be the place where, when people’s parents come to town, this is where they go.”

Despite Cullen’s praise for walkability and open space, the development will still be fundamentally a car-dependent one — the five-story mixed-use buildings will be built around structured parking garages, with a total of 1,450 spaces in all. Naturally, Cullen expects that will generate community concerns about traffic.

“That’s the immediate fear that people have,” Cullen said. “It’s local politics, the 10, 15, 20 people who town council members might hear from every day that make a difference.”

But, in general, he’s optimistic the plans will be well received. Cullen’s been careful to work closely with the Ours family, who built the shopping center, to embrace the site’s history, and he’s been making the rounds at community gatherings.

He hopes to have the town’s approval for the redevelopment by the second or third quarter of 2020, setting up a groundbreaking on the first phase by 2022. He plans to move west-to-east across the site, starting work on a second phase (which would include the pedestrian bridge) by 2025.

That approach would allow him to help any business in the existing shopping center remain on the property as the development continues, moving into one phase as he demolishes the rest.

In fact, Cullen says Virginia Village still has an occupancy rate in the high-90% range, so it’s not as if it’s struggling. But he sees so much potential in redeveloping that he’d much rather pursue that approach than simply keep leasing it as is.

“They’re not killer rents,” Cullen said. “We could continue to lease it if we needed to, but it’s not the best use of the property.”

NEWS   |   October 9, 2019

Charlotte, NC

Atherton Mill | Charlotte, NC

When the Republican National Convention convenes in Charlotte, North Carolina next year, more than a few attendees will step on the light rail adjacent to the Convention Center and head to the South End for craft beer, fine dining, wine bar hopping, to stroll shops or to stand in line for freshly churned ice cream.

Yet, only a few years ago Charlotte’s South End was an abandoned mill town dotted with empty factories.

“The area grew up around the railroad, which brought large mills and smaller industrial uses like machine shops,” says Megan Liddle Gude, Director of Historic South End, a department of Charlotte Center City, a non-profit devoted to the development of the city’s urban core.

“By the 1960s, manufacturing left, and the area was in decline. In the late 1980s and early ‘90s, art galleries and design businesses began to occupy some of the old mills.”

Gude points out that the rail line that brought industry to the South End in the first place also spurred the area’s renaissance.

“After obtaining the right of way on either side of the old train tracks, the city established a light rail line in 2007.”

A wide pedestrian-friendly swath with great views of Charlotte’s dramatic skyline, the right of way has become a favorite place to stroll, sit, jog or people-watch. It also houses a number of public art installations. And the once-decaying industrial buildings see new uses as a new young population moves into the area.

Today, the one-square-mile South End is the single fastest growing apartment submarket in the United States.

“In 2000, the area had 500 residents,” Gude says. “Today, there are 11,000 residents and 6,600 new housing units.”

One of the places where people will live is at the Atherton Mill, a mixed-use development on the site of a former textile mill.

“We have 115,000 square feet of retail, including the historic mill and trolley barn,” says Lyle Darnall, managing director of Edens, who is developing the property. “There will be 345 apartment units and 36 live-work spaces. We also provide space for Charlotte’s farmer’s market.”

Edens’ environmental budget exceeded $1 million. The state of North Carolina helped with the remediation of the property, which included removing oils and chemical contaminants from the soil under the mill building and replacing factory floors that had been soaked with coal tar resin.

“We replaced the floors with the same kind of end-grain wood blocks,” Darnall says. They look just like the original, but there is no off-gassing or smell.”

The Lance Packaging Company, which makes peanut products, was headquartered in a beautiful red brick building in the South End before moving into a more spacious facility. Today, the building houses condominium lofts on the upper floors and, at street level, Lincoln’s Habadashery, where chef Michael Shortino crafts sandwiches named  after things like the Thirteenth Amendment.

“It will set you free!” Shortino says. At Futo Buta Ramen, located at the edge of the light rail trail, he serves up steaming bowls of freshly made noodles in a flavorful broth.

The former Nebel’s Knitting Mill, built in 1927, now is called the Design Center and is home to local favorites like Superica, a Tex-Mex restaurant, and Pepperbox Doughnuts. Nearby, C3Lab provides co-working space to artists, designers, entrepeneurs, freelancers and other creative types. Business is booming: the owners are expanding into neighboring buildings.

The energy in this part of the city is palpable. Perhaps some of next years’ conventioneers won’t find their back.