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New Life for Old Buildings in North Old Town

Developers Examine Alternative Uses for Existing Building Stock

The former headquarters of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (Source: CAS Riegler)
The former headquarters of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (Source: CAS Riegler)
It’s hard to miss the construction that is almost complete at The Oronoco at 601 N. Fairfax St. The 60-unit project converted an existing office building to the luxury condos, which will deliver later this year.

In an urban area like Alexandria, there are limited opportunities to build new commercial properties, so developers often examine the potential of the existing building stock. In many cases, when a building is sold, the primary use of the building remains the same.

For others, though, developers take an innovative approach to creating something new using an existing building. The Torpedo Factory is one of Alexandria’s most famous examples of this type of development. In North Old Town, there are currently several interesting adaptive re-use projects underway.

One of these projects it the former International Association of Chiefs of Police building at 515 N Washington St, which has been a part of Alexandria’s history for more than 150 years. The building has a storied past and was originally built as a cotton mill in 1847. In subsequent years, it served other manufacturing purposes, both as a bottling factory for the Portner Brewing Company and as a spark plug factory for Express Spark Plug Company of America.

The building was subsequently turned into an apartment building before it was bought by the International Association of Chiefs of Police in 1992. The building served as the association’s headquarters until last year, when the association moved to Canal Center and sold the property.

In a return to its residential roots, this building will be converted to luxury condo units. Currently, the number of units planned is between 25 and 45, and the building should be complete in 2015. While the interior renovations are currently under way, the proposed changes to the exterior of the building will require a Development Special Use Permit from the City.

Another noteworthy project is the former American Academy of Physicians Assistants headquarters at 950 N Washington St. This 26,000 sf building was sold earlier this year, with the former tenants moving to 2318 Mill Rd in Carlyle.

This space is being converted to executive offices, which will include one-and two-office suites that can be used by local businesses that may need smaller spaces. There will also be short-term cube rentals available for those that need more flexible space.

Both of these re-use projects are owned by CAS Riegler, a real estate development firm that specializes in urban markets. The company focuses on high-density areas and existing building stock to identify opportunities for urban infill. They specialize in residential and mixed-use residential/retail projects but own other executive office space in Alexandria.

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