The 3.3-acre site will be home to hundreds of Metro employees.
By James Cullum
ALEXANDRIA,VA- Alexandria’s restaurants in the Carlyle area are about to get a little busier. The Alexandria City Council on July 9 voted 4-3 in favor of a new 14-story office building for the Virginia headquarters of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The vote over the use of the 3-acre site on Mill Road near Eisenhower Ave. was surprisingly close, as Councilors John Taylor Chapman, Mo Seifeldein, and Amy Jackson voted against the Metro proposal after Council agreed to remove conditions to provide funding for affordable housing and Capital Bikeshare.
Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said that he could find no better use for the currently underutilized area.
“I am excited about this use,” Wilson said. “I think this is a property that would have not been developed in any way at any time.”
The 14-story, 409,000 square foot office building will have an above ground parking garage and on-site parking that will accommodate 218 vehicles. The buildings will be able to accommodate between 300 to 1,000 employees. The parking garage will take up the first four floors of the building, with the lobby on the first floor. The remaining 10 floors will be office space. Additionally, public art will be displayed on the site.
Metro Board Chair Paul Smedberg, who is a former longtime member of the Alexandria City Council, was at the meeting and briefly spoke to Council in City Hall.
“I really do feel there is an awful lot of benefit to this for the city,” Smedberg told Council. “For a decade now we’ve been talking about better balancing residential versus commercial development, and here is a great opportunity to bring hundreds of jobs, and it will be hundreds, here.”
Alexandria City Councilor John Chapman didn’t support the proposal over the transit authority’s refusal to not pay $650,000 for affordable housing or contribute toward Capital Bikeshare as development conditions.
“I will not be supporting this motion,” Chapman said. “I want that to be very clear for every jurisdiction – if it’s possible in writing in a board meeting, so everybody knows going forward that even if state mandated that they have to give contributions, WMATA can’t participate.”
Nina Albert, WMATA’s vice president of real estate and parking, said that Metro is not legally able to contribute to other jurisdictions.
Metro gets its funding from multiple federal granting sources, and we are subsidized by the governments of this region, including the City of Alexandria. Metro is not legally able to use its federal grant funds towards contributions or donations, and we may not use the regional partners’ funding or subsidies towards non-transit goals. We are a public entity with a singular purpose, and much like a school whose mission it is to educate children, or a public utility, Metro’s mission is to provide transit services to the region and the funding we receive must be utilized toward that end.”
WMATA, chose the site within the Eisenhower Station neighborhood as part of Metro’s regional office consolidation plan. There will also be a new office building in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and the relocation of its existing headquarters at 600 5th Street, NW, to a site near L’Enfant Plaza in Washington, D.C.