New Meets Historic: Alexandria’s Mark Center


Alexandria, Virginia

Alexandria’s West End is going to have a new face, and MV+A is excited to play a role in it. At the center of an expansive redevelopment initiative by the JBG Companies, we are involved in planning and designing Block G – one of the largest of the blocks constituting the new ‘Town Center.’ As part of the collaborative process of design and planning with the City of Alexandria and neighboring communities, Block G was envisioned as having a historically inspired Main Street-like experience along Reading Avenue backed by the multitude of uses planned to have a home in Block G. Careful planning and design have helped to integrate these uses, all with a goal of creating a sustainable paradigm for development in Alexandria’s West End.

Mark Center | Alexandria, VA
View of the project entrance at Beauregard Street and Reading Ave. View shows plaza (at left) backed by the grocery anchor. Massing step backs and angled facades help distinguish contemporary facades from the Main Street experience.

Set within challenging topography, Block G involves a large format grocer, street retail, and multifamily apartments, all serviced by a new parking resource. MV+A proposed a design that gives the main anchor a prominent frontage while still preserving a human scaled, Main Street-like experience for smaller retail/restaurants along Reading Ave. The parking has been deftly squirreled away within the interior of the block, allowing other uses to face the streets and benefit from light, ventilation and views.

Mark Center | Alexandria, VA
View of the Reading Avenue experience, highlighting the multilayered architecture and active streetscape.

Subtle setbacks, angles, and amenities strewn throughout the block help articulate the massing and provide opportunities for residents to interact with their surroundings. Using specific impressions of historic architecture represented in the region – shallow bay windows, projecting glass storefronts and a rich palette of materials, colors and details – MV+A has layered elements to create a storyline that merges Main Street with contemporary ambitions.

Staff Profile: Courtney Drake, AIA

Courtney Drake, AIA works on several mixed-use developments, including Mark Center, where she applies strong technical skills and an above-average sensibility for the lived experience of potential project designs.


On cycling:
“In this photo, I’d traveled to Amsterdam, partly out of curiosity for how cycling is integrated to urban life. DC has come a long way, but the infrastructure of the city was not designed for an abundance of protected bike lanes. A lack of the feeling of safety inhibits the number of people embracing cycling. As for me, I love the idea of getting yourself somewhere, and not relying on fuel, or other time schedules to do so.”

On volunteering with Open Architecture Collaborative:
“Open Architecture Collaborative strives to make architectural resources available to everyone, empowering people to create change in their own communities. As a local, no one knows “here” better than you do. With these tools you can be the best advocate for sustainable action in your community. I contribute to the graphic design for the OAC website, presentations, and fundraising – anything to help visually communicate what we do.”

It’s Official: Trader Joe’s at Travilah Square

Trader Joe's | Travilah Square, Rockville, MD
Proposed design for the Trader Joe's at Travilah Square in Rockville, Maryland.

The Trader Joe’s at Travilah Square poses one of the common challenges of grocery design: the front of the building does not face the street. To reengage the site, we broke up the long mass facing Darnestown Road, and pushed back two bays at the building’s corners. A public plaza added to the corner captures pedestrian traffic, leading to the store entrance. Varied brick patterns and colors also help to modulate the long façade.