The owners of The Ashby, one of two downtown McLean high-rise buildings, visited the McLean Planning Committee last week to explore the idea of increasing the number of units by more than 50 percent with four additions to the building.
The Washington Real Estate Investment Trust told the Planning Committee that they wanted to test the waters for building three new six-story buildings on Beverly Road on the front of the existing 12-story apartment building and a fourth building on the side in place of the tennis courts and some trees.
The proposal is further evidence of the surging apartment market in Washington and its Virginia suburbs. The recession has made home buying less attractive through a combination of much more restrictive lending, job uncertainty and stagnant wages.
The Ashby currently contains 256 apartments. The new additions to The Ashby would add 145 new apartments, Robert Elliott of WRIT told the committee. Then they want to transform the existing retail space in the Ashby to 18 to 20 more apartments.
"We are presenting a concept — something that we could do if it's something the community and the community wants to embrace," Elliott told the board of residents and business owners that advises the Dranesville Supervisor on developments in downtown McLean.
"We wanted a sanity check before we went a spent a lot of money," said Elliott standing next to his architect, Erik J. Aulestia, who brought an initial concept plan for the committee to discuss.
Because the additions will ring the front of the building and replace the current parking lot, all the parking will be underground, Elliott told the committee.
Some planning committee members raised questions about the increased density.
"I'm afraid that they may be more outcry because you are adding to the density," said Maya Huber, a member of the McLean Planning Committee.
She recounted the community uproar that the building of The Ashby caused in McLean in 1975.
When the 12-story apartment building in the middle of McLean was approved residents said, "That is not McLean," she said.
"The outcry was huge," and 5,000 residents joined and took the developers to court to stop its construction. The judge found the group had no standing, she said.
But the outcry led to a major change in the master plan for downtown McLean, she said. Under the new plan everything "went down to four or five stories on Elm Street" as a matter of right.
The Ashby and its sister building The McLean House, which is condominiums, have the highest density in McLean, Huber said.
The Ashby neighbors the site where another developer has proposed building a new seven-story apartment building with classic designs. JBG has proposed the new building for the parking lot now on Elm Street.