Seemingly unbothered by the onset of the pandemic almost a year ago, Alexandria, Va.’s built environment has been revived by a number of new residential projects shaping up across the city. Some of them propose the adaptive reuse of vacant commercial buildings, including office, industrial and hospitality space.
Local player Abramson Properties is among the companies that officially undertook such a project earlier this year when it purchased an unused, four-story office property in Alexandria’s historic Old Town neighborhood. With clear plans to convert the roughly 66,000-square-foot property at 801 N. Fairfax St. into a 54-unit condominium property, the buyer paid $13.1 million to Finmarc Management Inc. for the building.
There have been talks about the property’s conversion as early as 2015, when the former owner revealed the asset’s repurposing potential to city officials, according to ALX Now. Abramson has been eyeing the asset—located four blocks from its offices—for several years, Danny Abramson, president & chief executive officer at the company, told Multi-Housing News.
“Our strategy was to take advantage of the location near the Potomac River and create reasonably affordable condos. Everything in Old Town that is currently on the market is expensive. Our goal was to make something affordable, within the $500,000-$900,000 price range, particularly considering the low interest rate environment,” Abramson noted.
A residential makeover
Also known as Waterfront I, the 1971-built structure is part of a two-building office campus. Located at 209 Madison St., Waterfront II spans 90,000 square feet across five stories. Finmarc acquired the 150,000-square-foot ensemble from Gates Hudson in 2014.
Waterfront I includes an underground parking garage, a key element that eases the construction process, which will start with the demolition of the building down to its steel structure. One of the advantages of reusing office space for residential purposes is the above-average ceiling height, ranging between 10 and 12 feet.
Financing sources for the conversion project include a construction loan from a local bank and “a lot of equity”, according to Abramson. One third of the units will have one-bedroom layouts, while the rest will be two-bedroom condos. Plans also call for the addition of indoor and outdoor rooftop amenities.
“We are anticipating to attract Millennials, young singles and married couples, as well as a pool of empty nesters from Arlington, Va., Alexandria and Washington, D.C., interested in purchasing smaller units in Old Town,” Abramson said.
Situated less than 3 miles south of Amazon’s National Landing headquarters development, Alexandria’s Old Town neighborhood has become a sought-after location since 2018, when the tech giant decided to expand to Northern Virginia. The announcement has been one of the key drivers in attracting investor capital to the area, along with the record-low interest rates.
Carr Cos. is in the process of redeveloping a neighboring property at 901 N. Fairfax St. The project, dubbed Venue, includes the conversion of the former Crowne Plaza Hotel into a 13-story luxury condominium tower of 199 units. The property is also set to house 41 townhomes. According to The Washington Post, roughly half of the condos and townhomes had been sold by October 2020. Prices for the condo units range between $500,000 and $3 million, while townhomes sell in the $1.5 million-$2.6 million range.
Two blocks north, at 1199 N. Fairfax St., Carr Cos. is also erecting an arts-focused, 73-unit luxury condo development on the site of the former MetroStage theater, which will be known as The Muse.
Another condo project in the area is Dylan—a luxury development that FORTIS Cos. broke ground on in October 2020—located minutes from the Amazon HQ2 site. The one- to three-bedroom units, averaging 1,200 square feet, will bear price tags from $600,000 to more than $1 million.