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Giant/ABC Site Redevelopment
Edens, a commercial real estate developer, is erecting a new mixed-use development directly across the street from Watergate of Alexandria on property previously occupied by a Giant grocery store and a Virginia ABC liquor store. The site fills an entire city block bounded by North Saint Asaph Street to the west, First Street to the north, North Pitt Street to the east, and Montgomery Street to the south (see map to the left).
The completed project will feature rental townhomes along North Pitt Street, street-level shops and restaurants facing the other three streets, several floors of rental apartments above the commercial space, a public courtyard facing Montgomery Street, and an underground parking garage and loading dock.
Edens' development partner is Gables Residential. A Gables affiliate, Gables Construction Group, is leading the building effort. This web page aggregates the public information that we have learned about the project.
Two of Wateragte of Alexandria's homeowners, Patricia Lord (933 North Pitt Street) and Patricia DiZebba (1007 North Pitt Street), have volunteered to form and co-chair an ad hoc liaison committee to coordinate and work with Edens, city officials and other stakeholders to minimize the impact of this project on Watergate's residents.
Please click or tap here to send an email to The Two Pattys.
The overall schedule for the project is to the right. It appears that Edens and Gables may be running a few months behind their original schedule, but there is ample time to catch up.
At various times and in various government filings and news articles, this project has been referred to as 500 First Street and 530 First Street. On its website, Gables refers to the development as Gables Old Town North. In mid-October 2017, a sign on a construction fence blocking Montgomery Street at North St. Asaph Street (see bottom right) referred to the entire project as 525 Montgomery Street. The developers will probably announce the final veted name and address once the marketeers have done their work.
Combined Parcel Size
Material Zoning Waivers and Variances
Developer Concessions and Proffers
General Construction Hours
The project site (see diagram to left) encompases two adjacent but separate parcels on two acres of land. Edens has obtained the necessary property rights and approvals to develop both parcels together for the first time.
One parcel (56,319 sq. feet) was occupied by a Giant Food store that closed permanently in February 2015 after 64 years of continuous operations. Giant opened a new and much larger store less than two miles away at the intersection of North Patrick Street (U.S. Route 1) and East Glebe Road, and will not be re-opening a store at the redeveloped site.
The Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control operated a retail store and maintained administrative office space on the other parcel (30,854 sq. feet). Near the end of 2016, the Virginia ABC Store moved to an interim location in the Saul Center at Washington Square a couple blocks away at 686 North Saint Asaph Street for the duration of the construction. The ABC store will return to the redeveloped site when it is completed.
Edens is a privately held real estate investment and development company headquartered in Columbia, South Carolina. It was founded in 1966 as Edens & Avant, Inc., and shortened its name to Edens in 2011. The company, which specializes in community-centered retail development, maintains regional offices in Boston, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Miami and Houston, and satellite offices in Dallas, Charlotte and West Hartford.
According to the company's website, "Edens develops, owns and operates community-oriented shopping places in primary markets across the country. Our expertise covers a broad range of areas including pioneering concepts, creating the right merchandise mix, delivering seamless construction projects and maintaining ownership and management."
In its 50 years in business, Edens has built more than 120 large retail centers. The firm's focus is on large urban areas throughout the East Coast. Edens' projects are financed by institutional investors, including public and private pension funds and private equity funds.
At the end of 2013, the Wall Street Journal reported that Edens was "a company valued at roughly $4 billion including debt" and has plans to grow to a $7 billion company.
Atlanta, Georgia-based Gables Residential owns and manages more than 31,000 multi-family apartment homes across the country. The company maintains regional offices in Austin, Boca Raton, Dallas, Denver, Houston, San Diego and McLean, Virginia.
Founded in 1994, Gables Residential develops, builds and operates leased residential units and retail spaces and provides professional property management services for its own assets as well as for developments and properties owned by others. Gables intends to manage the development once it is built.
Site Map -- Street Level
Site Map -- Second Level
Side view of the former Giant store from First Street and the Holiday Inn
Conceptual view of northeast corner closest to Watergate and frontage along North Pitt Street to the left
Front and parital side view of the former ABC store from North Saint Asaph Street
View of northwest corner and frontage along North Saint Asaph Street to the right
Side view of the former ABC store and administrative ofices from Montgomery Street
View of southwest corner farthest from Watergate and frontage along Montgomery Street to the right
Back view of the site from North Pitt Street and Watergate of Alexandria
View along Montgomery Street
Gables Quarterly Construction Updates
The Gables team sends out informative quarterly updates, which are archived immediately below as they become available.
Latest Project News (Reverse Chronological Order)
At the start of January 2018, Patty Lord asked Eddie Meder about the "large piece of [excavation] equipment sitting on [the] 900 block of N[orth] Pitt [Street (see photo at right) carving] up the street in front of [Watergate homes and whether any] vibration monitors [would] be necessary?"
Mr. Meder responded as follows: "That big piece of equipment is digging a trench to upgrade the combined sewer along [North] Pitt Street for two blocks extending down to the Harris Teeter [grocery store]. Over that path, we have not had any issues with vibrations. We also worked with a utility locating service to conduct a number of test pits to mark the locations of any potential conflicts (i.e., the pipes going into and around your community) so we could avoid them. That said, there are a number of utilities, some still in use and some abandoned, that are not marked on any sort of plans. Our contractor is very experienced with these issues as they've done a lot of work in Old Town Alexandria. They go slow and are careful when they do the trenching. We've already crossed paths with a number of unmarked utilities and they've been able to work around them with no issue. They even do hand shoveling when they need to!"
As of the start of November 2017, the excavation, sheeting and shoring for the underground parking garage and the relocation of the overhead power lines along First Street have been completed. For the remainder of 2017, Gables will be pouring below-grade concrete foundations and walls and installing a new sewer line under North Pitt Street.
The demolition, clearing and excavation phases started to wind down during the second week of October 2017, when the Gables Construction team used a massive-looking mobile construction crane (it looks like a mast on a mighty sailing ship in the photo at right) to erect two fixed construction cranes mounted on concrete foundation slabs, a silver one near the edge of the site closest to Montgomery Street (see photo at right) and a red one atop the future underground garage floor (see photo at bottom left, which also shows one of the last unobstructed photos of the Holiday Inn from the south). The tower cranes will remain in place until spring 2018.
On September 26, 2017, the city distributed flyers to all neighbors stating that on October 2, 2017 it would begin a related one-year project to rebuild Montgomery Street between North Pitt Street and North Saint Asaph Streets. The city and its contractors closed the street in mid-October 2017 (see photo bottom left).
On September 20, 2017, Patty Lord asked Eddie Meder about the archeological discovery that Gables recently made at the construction site (see photos at right), and here is what he had to say:
On May 4, 2017, several members of Watergate's board met with the Gables Construction team at The Royal Restaurant to discuss the project and its impact on neighboring communities. Here are some of the highlights from the meeting:
Pile driving began on May 1, 2017. On April 27-28, 2017, Geotechnical Solutions, the project developers' ground engineers installed ten solar-powered vibration monitors around the perimeter of the construction site for the entire month of May (see placement map below right), including one monitor in font of 1007 North Pitt Street (see photo below right).
These monitors will measure and record vibrations emanating from the site on a 24/7 basis while pile-driving is underway, a period that is expected to continue for 30 days. The chart below (click to enlarge), created by the developers, shows the placement of the vibration monitors (click here for a PDF version).
The City of Alexandria issued a demolition permit to the developers on March 21, 2017, and demolition of the existing buildings started that week.
A formal on-site groundbreaking ceremony was held on March 8, 2017, which happened to fall on International Women's Day. About 100 people in attendance. Appropriately, three women leaders, Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg, Edens CEO Jodie McLean, and Gables Residential CEO Susan Ansel, delivered the formal remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony (see photo at right). The developers had not yet received their demolition permit, so they had to truck in a symbolic pile of dirt along with the symbolic back hoe, symbolic American flag, and Piet Mondrian-esque shovels.
In early March 2017, Watergate board member James Blum held an email conversation with Gables development director Eddie Meder, who confirmed that the developers will be conducting pre-construction inspections of the North Pitt Street garage and the homes in the southern part of Watergate whose owners responded to Gables' written offer to perform a baseline survey. Gables identified 22 Watergate units that are situated within 100 feet of the construction site.
Mr. Meder also provided the following information regarding Gables' vibration-monitoring plans once pile driving starts in late March:
On February 6, 2017, Eddie Meder, Development Director at Gables Residential, announced that demolition will begin in early March, and pile driving will start in late March. Gables plans to send a pre-construction survey via certified mail to all residents and commercial tenants located directly across the street from the construction site prior to the commencement of pile driving to establish a baseline against which any possible construction-related damage might later be measured.
The developers held a city-mandated pre-construction meeting with the community on December 8, 2016 at the Best Western Old Colony Inn. They provided an initial construction schedule which is summarized in the chart above right. Onsite demolotion work will begin as early as January 2017. Click here to see a copy of the presentation prepared by the developers for use at the meeting.
At Watergate's annual homeowners association meeting held on September 21, 2016, Marie Tavernini, a long-time resident of Watergate and a member of the Urban Design Advisory Committee for Old Town North, reported that the developers of the Giant/ABC property hope to break ground on this project sometime in February 2017.
At the same meeting, Tom Soapes, another long-time resident and President of the North Old Town Independent Citizens' Association (NOTICe), noted that, for the duration of the construction, the ABC Store will move to a temporary location at the Saul Center at Washington Square, located at 625/675 North Washington Street. The relocation plans reportedly caused community anxiety as the new storefront is adjacent to a children's pre-school.
In September 2016, Patricia Lord and Patricia DiZebba conducted an informative email Q&A with Nathan Randall, the city's project manager for the Edens redevelopment plan. A transcript of their conversation is reprinted below.
The city issued a sheeting and shoring permit for the project on March 31, 2017.
The city issued a demolition permit for the project on March 21, 2017.
On March 12, 2016, the Alexandria City Council approved (6 votes in favor, 0 against, 1 abstention) Edens' plans for the redevelopment of the Giant/ABC property. The City Council reinstated the condition that tenants be denied zoned on-street parking permits, which is good for Watergate residents. Case No. 2015-00019.
On March 1, 2016, the Alexandria Planning Commission recommended that the Alexandria City Council approve Edens' revised proposal for the site. As reviewed (see documents posted at bottom left), the plan contemplates 51,272 square feet of commercial space at street level, 232 rental apartments on upper levels up to five stories high, 481 underground parking spaces accessible from First Street, and a below-ground loading dock with an entrance on First Street and an exit on North Pitt Street. The Planning Commission removed the condition that tenants be denied zoned on-street parking permits.
On February 10, 2016, the Old Town North Urban Design Advisory Committee conditionally endorsed the project design.
In June 2015, Edens submitted its first concept plan, and informed city officials that it had acquired options to purchase both parcels of land comprising the project site and that the options would expire the following month, July 2015. Edens requested expedited consideration of its plans in advance of the city's planned update of the Old Town North Small Area Plan, a process that started in September 2015 and concluded in June 2017 (see City Planning page of this website for more details). Edens' request was granted by the city. The Small Area Plan for Old Town North was first adopted in 1992, and it anticipated the redevelopment of the Edens project site.
Work on the Combined Sewer Pipes
A Mobile Crane Raises A Fixed One
Solar-Powered Web-Connected Vibration Monitors
Q&A With City Planner
The week before Labor Day 2016, Patricia Lord and Patricia DiZebba -- who serve as co-chairs of Watergate’s ad hoc liaison committee with Edens, Gables, city staff, and other stakeholders on this project – conducted an email Q&A discussion with Nathan Randall, an urban planner with the Alexandria Department of Planning and Zoning and the person who is managing this project for the city. Their conversation is reprinted below (it has been lightly edited for style, consistency and formatting, and supplemented with annotations and hyperlinks).
The Two Pattys: What is the potential timetable for demolition of the existing structure?
Mr. Nathan: The applicant [Edens] is currently pursuing, but has not yet received, approval of the Final Site Plan for the project. After the Final Site Plan has been approved, and prior to any demolition at the site, the applicant will host a required pre-construction meeting (open to the public) at which time several of the answers to your questions would be discussed, including the demolition schedule.
The Two Pattys: What pre-demolition/pre-construction notices are required to be provided by Edens?
Mr. Nathan: As mentioned above, the applicant is required to host a community pre-construction meeting prior to any demolition occurring at the site. Given that the Final Site Plan has not yet been approved, no meeting date/time has been selected yet. With your permission, I can forward your email addresses to the applicant’s attorney [Cathy Puskar] to directly include you in the meeting notice. In addition, once demolition/construction starts, the applicant intends to provide a monthly construction update to affected neighbors. A community liaison will also be identified and his/her contact information will be shared.
The Two Pattys: What actions must be undertaken by Edens prior to any demolition or construction related to the Watergate residences directly across the street on North Pitt Street. Our particular concerns relate to possible foundation and structural damage within the townhomes as a result of digging a two-story garage/foundation structure at the Edens site. Further, directly beneath these townhomes is the garage facility for Watergate residents. Protecting against damage to the garage wall and to heating/cooling units along the wall beneath North Pitt Street are significant concerns.
Mr. Nathan: You may wish to raise [this question and the next question] in the pre-construction meeting. We will also forward these two questions directly to the applicant for their consideration.
The Two Pattys: We note that when the Abingdon Row condominium was constructed on the North Royal Street border of Watergate, prior to construction, the developer took interior/exterior photographs of potentially impacted units to later determine whether construction activities caused structural issues. They also placed crack monitors in several locations. We are unaware of any similar undertaking that Edens may be planning.
Mr. Nathan: See above.
The Two Pattys: When the Harris Teeter building was being constructed, the city experienced significant rodent migration in the North End. In fact, I reported to then Mayor [William] Euille sightings of rodents along North St. Asaph Street during the day, which was very unsettling (although quite unsettling at any time). What plans are underway by the city and Edens to address rodent migration during demolition and construction in order to avoid rodent migrations to nearby residential structures and to protect against public health risks?
Mr. Nathan: The applicants are required through a condition of their approval to draft and implement a Rodent Abatement Plan to address rodents. The Plan requires the setting and the regular monitoring and baiting of rodent traps.
The Two Pattys: Will street parking along North Pitt Street, First Street and North St. Asaph Street be prohibited during the demolition and construction phases?
Mr. Nathan: We expect that parking will be prohibited on these streets on the side of the street immediately next to the site. Although possible for short periods of time based on specific construction needs, we do not expect that on-street parking on the opposite sides of each street will be closed for significant periods of time.
The Two Pattys: Where will trucks be permitted to park for purposes of loading and then hauling demolished structural material?
Mr. Nathan: Construction vehicles will need to park on-site for loading and hauling of demolished materials.
The Two Pattys: What is the route that such trucks will be permitted to take in order to haul these materials out of the North End?
Mr. Nathan: The applicant will be required to identify and follow a set truck haul route. However, that route will not be determined until later in the process. It will be shared at the pre-construction meeting.
The Two Pattys: What arrangements are being made for construction crew parking?
Mr. Nathan: Construction crews are not permitted to park on-street. The applicant is arranging for off-street parking, at no charge to the crews, at the Sheraton [Suites Old Town Alexandria] garage. Public transportation is also encouraged for members of the construction crew.
+ + + + +
The Two Pattys: Who approves the Final Site Plan?
Mr. Nathan: City staff approves the Final Site Plan for consistency with the City Council-approved preliminary plan.
The Two Pattys: How and who will Edens notify regarding the requied pre-construction meeting? Will there be City oversight of this process? Will City staff attend these meetings and address the affected community?
Mr. Nathan: The developers and their attorney, Cathy Puskar, will likely send an email invitation to area civic associations and other interested individuals. I will forward your email addresses for inclusion in that invitation. I’m sure they already have a considerable list of email addresses given earlier outreach efforts that occurred prior to the March public hearings and will use it again, but we do double-check to make sure they advertise the meeting. In almost all, if not all, cases City Planning & Zoning staff attends the pre-construction meeting.
The Two Pattys: Who chooses the community liaison -- just one individual?
Mr. Nathan: The applicant chooses either one or a few individuals to be the construction liaison.
Brooklyn, New York-based West Elm, a modern furniture and home furnishings store launched in 2002 by Williams-Sonoma. Here is an interesting profile on the company published in 2014 by American business magazine Fast Company. West Elm currently operates two other area stores in the Logan Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C. and at Tysons Corner Center in Virginia.
Recent News Stories and Press Releases
The following is a collection of news stories relating to development in Old Town North generally, the Edens project specifically, or issues arising therefrom (click or tap on links to view articles):
Out of the Attic: Alexandria canal culvert, Alexandria Times, January 5, 2018
Death by dry ice: How cities are using a chilling killer to zap rats, USA Today, September 16, 2016
On the Potomac, Change Comes to Alexandria’s Old Town, New York Times, August 23, 2016
A community in flux, Old Town North has long-lasting appeal, Washington Post, August 5, 2016
Giant revamp in North Old Town approved by council, Alexandria Times, March 17, 2016
Alexandria City Council Approves Redevelopment Of ABC/Giant Site In North Old Town, Alexandria News, March 16, 2016
Alexandria: Building on Giant’s Bones, Connection Newspapers, March 3, 2016
Mixed-Use Development at Old Giant Store Site Goes Before Planning Commission March 1, Patch, February 20, 2016
Edens lands residential partner for Old Town North project, Washington Business Journal, February 8, 2016
New Apartments Coming Soon to Old Town North, Red Brick Town, February 7, 2016
EDENS Announces Residential Partner For Alexandria's 500 First Street, PR Newswire, February 2, 2016
Edens details planned mixed-use overhaul for a square block of North Old Town, Washington Business Journal, July 10, 2015
More Upgrades Coming for North Old Town? First Street Giant Likely to See Changes, Patch, February 26, 2014
Developer Edens plots mixed-use project for Giant store north of Old Town, Washington Post, February 24, 2014
City of Alexandria Planning Commission Documents
Gables Construction Group
Gables opened an on-site construction office on the ground floor of the office building at 500 Montgomery Street, which is across the street from the southern end of the project site.
Eddie Meder, Development Director
John Bedenbaugh, Project Manager
Jerry Brown, Site Superintendent
Hillis-Carnes Engineering Associates
Geotechnical Solutions, Inc.
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