More than 5,000 miniature lights now punctuate the nighttime skyline around the King Street Metro station in Alexandria, outlining a new condominium office complex at 1101 King St. and at the same time serving as a symbol of the neighborhood's rebirth.
Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran flicked a switch earlier this week to turn on the lights that emphasize the architectural features of the 200,000-square-foot brick and terrazzo structure, which officially opened for business last summer.
This complex, developed by James T. Lewis Enterprises and designed by architects Zinser & Dunn, includes 15 commercial town-house units, another 100,000 square feet of more conventional floor space and three levels of enclosed parking. Cast in the design of numerous other Colonial-style buildings in Old Town Alexandria, the complex includes a four-story atrium with a melodic carillon, skylight and clock tower.
But to Moran, the building constitutes more than just another office building. He described the complex as "an anchor building in the King Street Metro area, which will establish a base to foster an economic revitalization in this part of the city." He said the building "will speed by five years the development in this area."
"Many investors may have been reluctant to invest in this area, but when they see this building they may now be willing to accept the risk. Jim Lewis is a pioneer developer who was willing to take the initial risk to get the ball rolling for development here," the mayor said.
Over the past couple of years, the city has spent $3.5 million on various improvements in the King Street area, including installation of new street lamps, construction of red brick sidewalks and removal of overhead electrical wiring. Alexandria also has heralded the neighborhood as Old Town's "new business center."
Although Lewis acknowledged that there was a certain amount of risk involved when he purchased the land five years ago, he said he felt the area had good potential because of its proximity to the subway stop. James T. Lewis Enterprises, a major developer in the Tysons Corner area of Fairfax County, currently is designing the 485-acre PortAmerica project in Prince George's County. Lewis said the firm has no immediate plans for new development in Alexandria.
The 1101 King St. complex is part of a major revitalization of the King Street Metro area launched several years ago to coincide with the opening of Metro subway service in December 1983. The revitalization is continuing under the direction of the King Street Metro Area Task Force, a group of developers, landowners and residents, which has successfully mandated that developers follow certain urban design guidelines to retain the historic characteristic of the neighborhood.
The task force also has been successful in attracting new business to the area. Richard Flaherty, Alexandria's director of economic development, said new businesses in the King Street Metro area have filled 533,635 square feet of office space in the past year, more than a quarter of the 2 million square feet of office space that has been absorbed by new business operations in all of Alexandria during that time. He said that by comparison, during the 1970s and early 1980s, about 300,000 square feet of office space was filled in Alexandria each year.
Among the new tenants at the 1101 King St. building are the National Society of Fundraising Executives; the law firm of Hudson, Creyke, Koehler & Tacke; TNT Enterprises; Lewis, Mitchell and Moore, another law firm; the World Trade Center Washington; a Central Fidelity Bank branch, and other enterprises.
Several of the new businesses that have moved to the King Street Metro area are associations, including such larger ones as the National School Boards Association, the National Society of Professional Engineers, the American Diabetes Association and the American Vocational Association.
Flaherty said Alexandria's Chamber of Commerce currently is organizing a task force in the Cameron Valley/Eisenhower Metro area of Alexandria to guide development at that subway stop in the same manner as the King Street Metro area group has done. He said the Cameron Valley/Eisenhower area already has experienced significant growth with the relatively recent addition of the Perpetual American Bank headquarters, the American Trucking Association, Technology Applications Inc., Mantech International, TRW, AT&T and Woodward & Lothrop management operations.