FROM WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL
Maybe this is the plan that will finally return a vacant Baileys Crossroads office building to productive use.
Novus Property Holdings LLC, an affiliate of Cafritz Interests, has earned the support of Fairfax County planning staff for its proposal to convert the vacant, 50-year-old office building at 5600 Columbia Pike into a live-work — or just live, or just work — concept.
If "e-lofts" proves viable, it could be a guide to the owners of vacant office buildings across Greater Washington.
The 10-story office building and adjacent five-story parking garage is located at the intersection of Columbia Pike and Carlin Springs Road, a major crossroads that was to be a streetcar stop until Arlington County killed the Columbia Pike streetcar plan. The Defense Information Systems Agency, the building's most recent tenant, was relocated to Fort Meade in 2011.
In the 157-unit e-lofts building, each tenant can choose whether to use their respective unit for office, residential or a combination of the two. The property would feature common areas including conference rooms, music practice and production rooms, a dog wash area and a fitness room.
Outside, Novus proposes to replace a surface parking lot (the garage will do) fronting Columbia Pike with a multilayered park, an amenity that won over county planners who were tasked with reviewing the e-lofts application. The "proposed eco-walk and sculptural berm would create a striking and unique gateway feature," staff wrote.
The park's architect, Boston-based Landworks Studio Inc., described its design as "a ‘big-nature’ arboreal experience within the city through the deployment across the site of signifi cant collections of various canopy and understory tree species." It will replace "a currently inhospitable sea of asphalt."
Davis Carter Scott is the project architect.
The Novus plan is the second in three years for 5600 Columbia Pike. Foulger-Pratt had previously proposed to redevelop the site with a 500-unit apartment complex. But the developer couldn't reach an agreement to acquire the property from its longtime owner, the Newton, Massachusetts-based Government Properties Income Trust (NYSE: GOV).
The Foulger-Pratt pitch was ditched in 2015. But while it was still alive, Fairfax County changed its comprehensive plan to allow residential at the corner of Columbia Pike and Carlin Springs, an amendment that opened the door for Novus and e-lofts.
This will be the region's second e-lofts property. The first, at 4501 Ford Ave. in Alexandria, opened in August. The e-lofts brand is owned by Novus, which plans to open five locations in the D.C. area, and 50-100 locations throughout the country over the next decade.
"Traditional buildings separate people by function, living or working," e-lofts CEO Robert Seldin said in a recent release. "As technology blurs these traditional boundaries, e-lofts is the first product to accommodate this transition."