By Janie L. Rhoads, Attorney at Law
The fire station at Potomac Yard - the City of Alexandria's first new fire station in more than 30 years - is nearly complete. And it is not just any fire station. The Potomac Yard station is being recognized as a model of sustainable design, construction, and livability.
The fire station is part of a 167-acre mixed-use redevelopment in Alexandria, VA known as Potomac Yard and is the product of an innovative collaboration between the City of Alexandria, Virginia, and national home builders Pulte Homes and Centex; also known as Potomac Yard Development, LLC. Potomac Yard Development donated the land on which the fire station is built to the city for the purpose of building such a station.
Daniel R. Abramson, president of the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation, a nonprofit housing group, calls the fire station project "a model for future collaborations between municipalities, private developers, and nonprofit affordable housing developers."
The Potomac Yard fire station contains an impressive mix of uses. The station consists of one building accommodating a state-of-the art, four-bay fire station, approximately 1,500 square feet of retail space, and a combination of affordable and workforce rental housing. City officials say they believe the station at Potomac Yard to be the only project in the nation combining a fire station with affordable housing and retail space.
The fire station and retail space are located on the ground floor level in the building while 64 apartments comprise the building's upper four floors. Forty-four of those apartments are slated to be rented as "affordable" housing and the remaining 20 as "workforce" housing for Alexandria public service employees, including first responders and teachers.
"Affordable housing is one of the city's great, largely unmet needs," said Helen McIlvaine, Deputy Director for the City of Alexandria's Office of Housing. "We've had tremendous interest from people, from employees who work for the city, who would be very excited to live anywhere close to where they work."
The fire station offers multiple amenities and conveniences to enhance livability. Two levels of parking are located below grade and will serve the fire station staff, residents, and retail space customers. The building contains a community room, a rooftop terrace, open space on the first floor grounds, and an on-site fitness room.
The project is also an example of Virginia Governor Tim Kaine's Renew Virginia program to build green facilities and conserve energy. The fire station incorporates green building design and principles in all components of the building. The fire station is LEED certified and the housing portion is designed to meet EarthCraft certification guidelines for energy efficiency. The apartments will be equipped with Energy Star appliances to provide maximum long-term utility savings for residents. Plumbing fixtures will incorporate water saving features. A rooftop cistern is designed to capture rainwater to irrigate the tree wells on the property and recycled water will be used to wash the fire station equipment.
The building integrates high quality materials and design in its construction. The exterior of the building is composed of brick and stone. The metal roof, which is designed to resemble tile, also has a solar-reflectance value. The building is designed to minimize noise transmission. These design features include a double-ceiling system, a floating slab system between the fire station and the apartments, special roof sheathing under mechanical units, and the arrangement of the apartments over less noisy areas of the fire station.
The fire station property represents a very unique type of common interest community and its legal structure is noteworthy. The property will be a condominium containing three condominium units: 1) the fire station; 2) the retail space; and 3) the 64 apartments. The City of Alexandria has designated Alexandria Housing Development Corporation, through a special partnership created for the project, to develop, finance, own, operate, and manage the residential and retail units and to maintain the residential unit as long term affordable housing. The project is one of the first fire station condominiums in the country.
The fire station is being recognized not only locally, but nationally. The project has won two prestigious awards. The station won an outstanding project award from the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Planning Association. The City of Alexandria also received an award from the U.S. Conference of Mayors for Excellence in Public-Private Partnerships.
The project has been cited as a finalist for the National League of City's recognition awards for "Municipal Excellence" as well as for the Urban Land Institute's Ronald Terwilliger Center Workforce Housing Models of Excellence Award that recognizes exemplary developments that meet workforce housing needs in high cost communities. The Potomac Yard fire station will be featured in the upcoming Real Estate & Construction Review - 2010 Northeast Green Edition. The project is also featured in the Stewart Title Spotlights publication and in the April 2009 issue of Tax Credit Advisor.
The long-anticipated fire station is scheduled for completion this month. The station will be one of the first structures to be completed in the redeveloped Potomac Yard.
Author Bio: Janie L. Rhoads, Attorney at Law, represents community associations and community association developers for the firm of MercerTrigiani. Janie is a member of the Chapter's Virginia Legislative Committee.
Back to Quorum TM: September 2009