The Lofts at Del Ray Village

PUBLICATION: Alexandria Times
DATE: April 27, 2006

An example of how infill development can benefit a community.

With all the recent negativity surrounding infill development in the city, it’s important to know the benefits of it and how it can actually help a community.

A good example of this is The Lofts at Del Ray Village – a project that is in the final stage of planning and being led by local architect Gavor Nichols. This development project is being planned for the vacant lot located at the corner of Mount Vernon and Raymond avenues in Del Ray.

The proposal presents an opportunity to redevelop a site that has been vacant for a long time. The site was previously home to a single-family house that was demolished in the mid-1970s. It will now be subdivided into four lots designed to accommodate four vertical units. Each unit will range in size from 2,053 to 2,949 square feet. The residential areas of each unit will range from 1,057 to 1,464 square feet, each with two bedrooms and a roof top deck in the front and rear.

According to Nichols, the proposed three-story development will be mixed use – with four residential units on the top two floors and 4,500 square feet of commercial use on the ground floor. A 16 space surface parking lot, which provides the required parking, will be located in the rear of the building and will be accessed from Raymond Avenue.

“This will be the first new building on Mount Vernon Avenue in years,” said Nichols, who resides in Del Ray. “It has the potential to contribute to the activity and character of Mount Vernon Avenue in the way that was envisioned by the Mount Vernon Avenue Business Area Plan.”

In addition to protecting and enhancing the unique character of Mount Vernon Avenue, the infill development principles of the Mount Vernon Avenue business plan include enhancement of the streetscape and the pedestrian environment. It also protects adjacent residential neighborhoods and provides buffers for adjoining residences in the rear.

Open space

The design for The Lofts at Del Ray Village aims to meet those principles by offering a ground level open space that will feature patios, attractive landscaping, brick sidewalks and appropriate street lighting. Additionally, there will be public benches, bicycle racks and a trash receptacle for the street frontages. There is also an intended corner entrance – from Raymond and Mount Vernon avenues – that will be designed to look like a plaza.

“The location of the building will be perfect for an art gallery, a boutique, a bank – or anyone who would like an office or a storefront that’s accessible to the Del Ray neighborhood and everything on the avenue,” described Nichols.

The architectural style of the building will be brick with punched openings, recalling elements of buildings on Mount Vernon Avenue. The overall body of the building will be reminiscent of the art deco style that is found on the Avenue. The third floor, which will be “set back,” will be more contemporary in form and materials – and will feature a roof with varied lines.

“We are a design-driven development group,” Nichols says of his partners – Danny Graumann, a local builder who lives in the Springfield/Franconia area and Jim Snyder, an urban planner who lives in Del Ray. “We’re local guys who are trying to do a good thing for the neighborhood – and the city. The good news for the city is – this project has the potential to bring more tax revenue. And that’s a good thing.”

Of course with any new development project, it must pass through several channels. This includes the local citizens associations. In this case, it was presented to the Del Ray Citizens Association (DRCA) last year. After several meetings and a series of discussions, the project received enthusiastic support.

Nichols credits Amy Slack, a Del Ray resident and co-chair of the DRCA’s Land Use Committee, for helping the city staff understand the overall vision of the project. “Amy has been extremely instrumental in pushing this forward.”

Well known for specializing in historic preservation, adaptive reuse and renovation of both residential and small scale commercial projects, Nichols has been able to take his talents to new construction and is especially excited about this particular project. “This is a home-grown plan. It means a lot to me to be able to do something like this in my own backyard. I feel really good about what this will bring to Del Ray.”

Danny Graumann, who will be overseeing the construction part of the project, says, “This is exciting and inviting. It’s going to be a neat piece.” Graumann expects construction to begin this year with an anticipated completion date in the fall of 2007.