Holmes Run residents oppose Parcview II project fearing another ‘Surfside’

Most people can agree that Alexandria needs more affordable housing, but recent attempts by a developer to address the affordable housing crisis have left some local residents worried. I

na project doubled Parkview II, Developer Wesley Housing plans to build 227 additional units, a childcare center and a two-level underground car park right next to an existing 14-story, 48-year-old high-rise building. The new development would be built on the 3-acre lot where the existing building’s parking lot is located.

The project causes many residents to fear for their own safety and that of their neighbours. According to the Holmes Run Civic Association website, their main concern is that the two-year construction which will involve extensive underground excavation, pile driving, jackhammering and heavy equipment, which could seriously compromise the structural stability of existing skyscrapers in the region, all of which are between 35 and 60 years old.

The problem of older buildings becoming destabilized due to nearby construction has been highlighted in the tragic and sudden collapse of a high-rise condominium building in SurfsideFlorida, in 2021.

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This part of town is commonly referred to as “Condo Canyon” because of the many high-rise apartment buildings and apartments there and its location where Holmes Run Creek flows. The buildings house 3,180 households, and all units are considered affordable or labor housing. The neighborhood is extremely diverse, with many residents from other countries and of different ethnic and racial backgrounds. Many area residents are also elderly or have reduced mobility. Claridge House, which is located adjacent to the Parcview site, offers 300 low-rent housing units for seniors. Current residents of Parcview will also remain in their building during construction of the new building.

Besides the fact that many of the surrounding skyscrapers are old, the soil in the area is made up of sea clay which is notoriously unstable compared to other soil types.

James Lewis and Donna Fossum were instrumental in forming the Holmes Run Civic Association and sensitize local residents to some of the shortcomings of the Parcview II project as planned.

Lewis is vice president of the Alexandria Traffic and Parking Council and recently ran for city council. Fossum, a LL.D. and Ph.D. holder, has been a resident of the town and Holmes Run community for decades. She was heavily involved in local politics and served as Vice President of the Planning Commission.

They both believe that concerns they raised with developers about the safety of the project have been largely dismissed, so the civic association has sought expert opinions to bolster their concerns.

“We contacted a few engineering firms and as you can imagine everyone wants a relatively large check in order to put something on letterhead, but just in our initial conversations when we start explaining the situation to the engineers, they all go on ‘oh that’s a bad idea,’” Lewis explained.They were able to get a Robson Forensic general report hence the dangers that excavation and vibration from pile driving and other construction activities can have on nearby structures, especially if proper precautions are not taken.

“Harmful vibration levels from construction activities can damage nearby properties and structures in several ways. The most common include: damage to a structure directly caused by the energy of the vibration source, the response of the resonant structure (i.e. the natural frequency of the building and ground matches the frequency of the ground movement causing uncontrollable shaking) and/or densification of the ground supporting a building structure resulting in settlement. All of these vibrational effects can lead to aesthetic damage and/or irreparable structural damage,” the report states.

Lewis and Fossum are concerned about the impact Parcview II may have on some of the city’s most vulnerable residents in a densely populated area. They collected more than 230 signatures against the project, the vast majority of which are residents of the West End neighborhood.

In addition to security, there are many other issues with the project, such as transportation, parking, and lack of open space. In order for the new buildings to be constructed, the land must be rezoned from the RC zone to the RMF zone, a decision that will be before the Planning Commission on February 1 and the City Council on February 12. To learn more about the project and how to get involved visit the Holmes Run Civic Association website at www.holmesruncivic.org.

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