Located just south of Washington, DC, adjacent to Interstate 395 within the City of Alexandria, Virginia, the JBG Mark Center site is an assembly of parcels totaling approximately 150 acres. Today, the site contains approximately 2600 garden-style apartment units dating from the 1970s, and a 60,000 square foot retail center.
This region of western Alexandria is poised to undergo change due in large part to the addition of future Federal office buildings, which will add more than 6,400 employees to the intersection of Interstate 395 and Seminary Road in 2011. The reality of this impending activity has accelerated the need to anticipate future uses, development patterns and transportation services in the surrounding area in a comprehensive and sustainable manner that meets the needs of current and future residents. These factors prompted a master planning process to begin creating a vision for a phased redevelopment of the property over time. The town planning firms of Dover, Kohl & Partners and Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company were retained to jointly create a master plan to guide redevelopment.
The Masterplan includes two neighborhoods: Upper Town and Lower Town. Each neighborhood provides a mix of uses, with intent to provide neighborhood services and destinations within a five-minute walk of all residents. A larger, mixed-use center in Upper Town is envisioned, as well as a smaller neighborhood commercial center in Lower Town. Buildings within these villages are utilized to shape public spaces, defining the edges of walkable streets and neighborhood greens and plazas.
The plan also illustrates a strategy for preserving some prime areas of tree canopy and proposes new ponds that can be an amenity as well as serve a stormwater retention purpose. Residents and visitors are provided with a wide range of useful open spaces. In Upper Town, the most dense and urban part of the Mark Center site, open space is provided in a more appropriate and contextual manner in the form of urban paved and hardscaped plazas and squares.
A mixture of uses and buildings types will create variety and provides choice for new residents. Between the Upper Town and Lower Town the plan seeks to connect and reestablish a greater green network by linking these open spaces. Introduced in the plan are new parks, greens, plazas and natural areas linked by trails to create an interconnected sequence of unique spaces.
Finally, the plan demonstrates a strategy to improve both internal and external connectivity of the street network. On the site itself, strategies for breaking down the superblocks with the introduction of new streets are illustrated; these new streets are designed for low speeds to accommodate all modes of movement (pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular), to produce a high-quality public realm with valuable new addresses. Connections to the surrounding area were also explored; the street network layout allows for future connections on adjacent parcels, such as the Duke Realty office complex, which can further improve connectivity in the area.