TESTIMONY re: Reversal of BAR Denial of Certificate of Appropriateness for Heritage at Old Town

Testimony to Alexandria City Council Supporting Reversal of BAR Denial of Certificate of Appropriateness for Heritage at Old Town (Agenda item 16 22-0041; BAR #2021-00341) 

November 13, 2021 

The Coalition for Smarter Growth reiterates our strong support for the Heritage at Old Town as approved by the City Council under a special use permit and Residential Multifamily Zoning. We face a housing crisis and the Heritage at Old Town is a well-designed development, providing critically needed housing and affordable housing. Our prior testimony is attached. 

I am personally a committed historic preservationist who has spent 15 years restoring an 1846 rowhome. I previously lived in Colecroft in a four-story condominium building integrated with new three-story townhomes and across the street from a single-family detached and two story attached homes. The neighborhood gained from the additional activity and housing supply. 

From reviewing the BAR record it appears that the applicant modified their design to address concerns and that the primary outstanding concern of the BAR and many neighbors remains the height, which was previously approved by the Council under the special use permit. The buildings are four stories facing the neighborhood, similar to my former Colecroft residence and other new buildings in Old Town. They are seven stories facing Route 1 – a height and massing appropriate for facing a highly trafficked gateway into Alexandria. The new development also replaces existing non-historic structures with a high-quality design. 

CSG concurs with others that the BAR decision exceeds its authority in what they can consider in issuing a Certificate of Appropriateness and undermines the provisions of the Residential Multifamily (RMF) zoning policy which provides the approved density and height for this proposal. 

If historic preservation is stretched to deny well-designed and critically needed housing, it will continue to lose the support of the next generation. I personally believe we can both maintain good historic preservation policies AND provide much needed housing. The Heritage at Old Town is such a case – it offers high-quality design, appropriate heights and much needed housing without harm to the historic district. 

Thank you. 

Stewart Schwartz 

Executive Director

Previous testimony here.