Neighborhood activists in Alexandria are gearing up to oppose yet another development plan in Eisenhower Valley, one that would turn the Van Dorn Metro station parking lot into a 250-unit apartment complex complete with retail space and a parking deck.
Two applications for special use permits, which would allow Vienna-based developer KSI to convert the property, will be submitted to the City Council at a public hearing at 9 a.m. Saturday at City Hall.
The council will hear KSI's plan to convert the 5 1/2-acre site into a series of mid-rise apartment buildings and 17,000 square feet of retail space. The development would also include more than 900 parking spaces to accommodate apartment residents and Metro parking.
Opponents of the proposal are encouraging others to attend the meeting and speak against the project, which they say would be a poor way to use valuable real estate near Eisenhower Valley train stations.
City staffers have had their say about the project, recommending denial a few months back. In addition, the city Planning Commission unanimously rejected the proposal in November, saying it did not fit with the city's goal of attracting commercial office space to the site.
City officials have said they are trying to attract more office space to Metro stations in the valley to help ease traffic and encourage more balanced use of the area.
"The proposal offers limited public benefit and is inconsistent with expressed community values that seek the creation of neighborhoods around Metro stations that are vibrant urban places that sustain the economic health of the city," city staff wrote.
KSI, which has done its own traffic studies, contends that Eisenhower Avenue will "operate adequately" with full development. Furthermore, a separate study by Robert Charles Lesser & Co., a Washington-based research firm commissioned by the developer, found that the Van Dorn Metro stop does not "represent an attractive enough office location."
KSI's proposal is of particular interest because it serves as a litmus test for city residents about how the City Council deals with development in the valley. Many of those who oppose the KSI development also opposed the Eisenhower connector, in some instances for the same reasons: Such developments would only encourage more traffic in areas that don't need it.
Opponents say the city should follow Arlington's model of encouraging development around Metro stations that keeps a strict balance between commercial, residential and retail projects.
"There is no urgency to develop the area immediately and. . .[it] would just lead to more of the problems that have resulted from shortsighted planning or lack of planning," opponent Jeff Bernholz wrote to neighborhood activists last week. "It is also the kind of development that would create more pressure for an UNWANTED CONNECTOR."