Robinson Terminal North – Proposed building on the west side of North Union
Two things stand out immediately when considering the size and design of West building (i.e. on the west side of North Union Street) of the proposed North Robinson Terminal development project. Those factors should preclude the building, and the entire project, from being approved by the BAR as the proposed building violates both the Potomac River Vicinity and Potomac River Height ordinances.
First, the height ordinance limits the building height to 30 feet, which is clearly exceeded. See zoning ordinance below:
Second, the proposed building deliberately distances itself from the architectural fabric of Old Town in an attempt to stand out or apart from it, claiming it will be Iconic. The Potomac River Vicinity ordinance, and the Old and Historic District ordinance itself for that matter, makes that illegal and should in itself preclude the proposal from going forward. See the ordinance below, specifically for the Potomac River Vicinity
The relevant Alexandria zoning ordinances
6-404 Additional regulations for the Potomac River Vicinity Height District.
(A) Height limits. The maximum height of any building or structure shall not exceed 30 feet above the average finished grade at the building or structure except buildings may be erected in excess of the above-mentioned height limit to a maximum of 50 feet above the average finished grade at the building, subject to the issuance of a special use permit pursuant to section 11-500 and section 6-404(B) and further subject to the issuance of a certificate of appropriateness pursuant to section 10-103and section 6-404(C).
(B) Additional requirements for special use permit.
(1) In addition to submitting the information required pursuant to section 11-503(A), the applicant for a special use permit hereunder shall submit for approval as part of the special use permit application a conceptual development plan. Such conceptual development plan shall include:
(a) The information required for preliminary site plans by sections 11-406(C), (D) and (E) of this ordinance, excluding section 11-406(C)(9).
(b) Preliminary architectural renderings sufficient fairly to depict each facade of any proposed building or buildings.
(c) Such additional information as the director may require, or the applicant may desire to submit, in order to facilitate review of the application for a special use permit hereunder.
(2) Any special use permit granted hereunder shall run with the land and shall be binding upon the applicant, the owner, the occupants and their heirs, successors and assigns and all development on the subject parcel or parcels shall be in conformity with the conceptual development plan approved in connection with such special use permit.
(3) In addition to the provisions of section 11-504, the following standards and guidelines, to the extent relevant in each individual case, shall apply in considering an application for a special use permit for additional building height:
(a) The degree to which imaginative and creative architectural solutions advance recreational access to and enjoyment of the historic waterfront from public streets and other public areas. Buildings should be in harmony with existing buildings of genuine architectural merit, to be found in the historic district.
(b) The degree to which the basic 30 feet height is maintained at the street faces and the waterfront face of the proposed building or buildings. To provide a transition, building heights over this basic height level should be set back from the street faces and waterfront faces.
(c) The degree to which the height, mass and bulk of the proposed construction are compatible with and reflect the traditional height, mass, and bulk of buildings and structures displayed within the streetscapes of the historic district.
(d) The degree to which imaginative and creative architectural solutions enhance views and vistas from public streets and other public-access areas along the historic waterfront. The waterfront faces of the buildings, in particular, should be designed and integrated so as to enhance pedestrian enjoyment of the waterfront, and the quality and character of the historic waterfront, as a totality, when viewed from passing vessels.
(e) The degree to which the use or uses of the proposed building or buildings are compatible with historical waterfront-related uses in the City of Alexandria.
10-105 Matters to be considered in approving certificates and permits.
(A) Certificate of appropriateness.
(1) Scope of review. The Old and Historic Alexandria District board of architectural review or the city council on appeal shall limit its review of the proposed construction, reconstruction, alteration or restoration of a building or structure to the building's or structure's exterior architectural features specified in sections 10-105(A)(2)(a) through (2)(d) below which are subject to view from a public street, way, place, pathway, easement or waterway and to the factors specified in sections 10-105(A)(2)(e) through (2)(j) below; shall review such features and factors for the purpose of determining the compatibility of the proposed construction, reconstruction, alteration or restoration with the existing building or structure itself, if any, and with the Old and Historic Alexandria District area surroundings and, when appropriate, with the memorial character of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, including the Washington Street portion thereof, if the building or structure faces such highway; and may make such requirements for, and conditions of, approval as are necessary or desirable to prevent any construction, reconstruction, alteration or restoration incongruous to such existing building or structure, area surroundings or memorial character, as the case may be.
(2) Standards. Subject to the provisions of section 10-105(A)(1) above, the Old and Historic Alexandria District board of architectural review or the city council on appeal shall consider the following features and factors in passing upon the appropriateness of the proposed construction, reconstruction, alteration or restoration of buildings or structures:
(a) Overall architectural design, form, style and structure, including, but not limited to, the height, mass and scale of buildings or structures;
(b) Architectural details including, but not limited to, original materials and methods of construction, the pattern, design and style of fenestration, ornamentation, lighting, signage and like decorative or functional fixtures of buildings or structures; the degree to which the distinguishing original qualities or character of a building, structure or site (including historic materials) are retained;
(c) Design and arrangement of buildings and structures on the site; and the impact upon the historic setting, streetscape or environs;
(d) Texture, material and color, and the extent to which any new architectural features are historically appropriate to the existing structure and adjacent existing structures;
(e) The relation of the features in sections 10-105(A)(2)(a) through (d) to similar features of the preexisting building or structure, if any, and to buildings and structures in the immediate surroundings;
(f) The extent to which the building or structure would be harmonious with or incongruous to the old and historic aspect of the George Washington Memorial Parkway;
(g) The extent to which the building or structure will preserve or protect historic places and areas of historic interest in the city;
(h) The extent to which the building or structure will preserve the memorial character of the George Washington Memorial Parkway;
(i) The extent to which the building or structure will promote the general welfare of the city and all citizens by the preservation and protection of historic interest in the city and the memorial character of the George Washington Memorial Parkway; and
(j) The extent to which such preservation and protection will promote the general welfare by maintaining and increasing real estate values, generating business, creating new positions, attracting tourists, students, writers, historians, artists and artisans, attracting new residents, encouraging study and interest in American history, stimulating interest and study in architecture and design, educating citizens in American culture and heritage and making the city a more attractive and desirable place in which to live.
…………………Skipped Washington Street standard……………………………………
4) Additional standards—PotomacRiverVicinity. Within thePotomacRiverVicinity Height District, in addition to the provisions of section 10-105(A)(2), the following standards and guidelines, to the extent relevant in each individual case, shall apply in considering an application for a certificate of appropriateness by the Old and Historic District Board of Architectural Review, or by the city council on appeal, for any building in excess of 30 feet in height when such height has been authorized by a special use permit.
(a) The degree to which facades of a proposed building or buildings are generally in alignment with the existing street edges and express the 20- to 30-foot bay width typically found within the historic district. Techniques to express such typical bay width should include changes in materials; articulation of the wall surfaces; changes in fenestration patterns; varying roof heights; and physical breaks within the massing. Large expanses of unbroken or repetitive facades are disfavored.
(b) The degree to which building materials characteristic of buildings having architectural merit within the historic district are utilized. The texture, tone and color of such materials should display a level of variety, quality and richness at least equal to that found abundantly in the historic setting. The use of synthetic or imitative materials is disfavored.
(c) The degree to which new construction reflects the traditional fenestration patterns found within the historic district. Traditional solid-void relationships (i.e., masonry bearing wall by a veneer system) should be used in building facades which are directly related to historic streetscapes.
(d) The degree to which new construction on the waterfront reflects the existing or traditional building character suitable to the waterfront. "High style" or highly ornamented buildings are disfavored. Also disfavored are metal warehouses and nondescript warehouse-type structures.
(e) To the extent that any provisions of section 10-105(A)(2) are inconsistent with the provisions of this section 10-105(A)(4), the provisions of this section shall be controlling.