Friday, July 13, 2007

Spotlight on Jefferson-Houston

This week's Alexandria Gazette features a lengthy article by reporter Michael Lee Pope on Jefferson-Houston and what will happen if the school does or doesn't make AYP again this year.

Test results should be out in August.

License to Build?

Besides making the Growler hungry, all this talk of retail and sub shops has driven the Curmudgeonly One back to the Alexandria Zoning Ordinance to look at the CRMU-H (mixed use residential high) zoning designation.

The Growler found something interesting.

If a developer wants to put up a single-purpose building for residential or commercial (i.e., office) use on a site zoned CRMU-H, they are permitted a floor area ratio (FAR) of only 1.25, which is not terribly dense They can also get another .25 FAR of retail use.

But if the developer opts for a mixed-use building and is willing to go the special use permit route, they can achieve FAR as high as 2.5 as long as at least 50% of the building is residential.

In essence, there's a built-in density bonus for going mixed-use.

Now perhaps the zoning is structured this way to incentive developers -- to encourage them to stick with the mixed use designation zoning which one might assume was applied by wise City fathers in their wisdom at some point in the past to encourage neighborhood development.

But does it strike anyone that this might encourage developers to put up big buildings with maximum FAR where the profit is in the sale of the bonus residential units or enhanced revenue flow from additional office space rental, with retail as a mere throwaway? In fact, could the empty retail space be a loss leader for tax purposes?

It's always been a mystery to the Growler that the owners of Braddock Place haven't pushed very hard over twenty years to attract ground floor retail businesses that at least service the office tenants that occupy the commercial space, not the neighborhood.

Where are businesses like Kinko's or FedEx, banks, or small coffee shops serving the lunch crowd? Public housing and crime are less significant factors for these sorts of businesses =, which are typically open only Monday through Friday, 8 a.m to 5 p.m.

If we have any land use junkies out there who can explain this, speak please!