Medium-density housing? Updated 9/19/2018

Posted on September 18, 2018

This is a brief note to illustrate how the 444 Maple West proposal compares to the surrounding neighborhoods.

As proposed, the 444 Maple West building will have 160 “dwelling units” on roughly 2.75 acres of land.

Question:  If 444 Maple West is 160 dwelling units, how much of the surrounding neighborhood would you need to include to match that 160?  In other words, what does this building look like when measured in “standard Vienna neighborhoods”.

That’s simple enough to answer:  Go to Google Maps and start counting.  The answer is pictured below.   You have to take the entire triangle of land bounded by Maple, Nutley, and Courthouse in order to encompass something close to the number of dwelling units in that one building.

To get oriented, the corner of Nutley and Maple is in the upper left.  The red-outlined area in the upper left is the 444 Maple West site, with its 160 dwelling units on 2.75 acres.  The much larger red-outlined area in the lower right is the adjacent area that you would have to enclose to reach 157 dwelling units.   Those 157 houses and townhouses sit on more than 100 acres of land.

The next time you look at the 444 Maple West proposal, don’t think of it as just one (big) building.  Think of it as 100 acres of typical Vienna neighborhoods, packed into a 2.75 acre lot.  In terms of the impact its residents will have, that’s exactly what it is.

Update 2, 9/19/2018:   Might as well do 380 Maple West.  The little box at the top is 380 Maple West, the larger area is all the houses on streets that eventually empty onto Glen Avenue.  I count 43 dwelling units in that catchment area.  Basically, they’ll put my entire extended neighborhood into a single building.

UPDATE 9/19/2018.  This analysis got me curious about the other apartment or apartment-style condo buildings in Vienna.  I decided to look into the ones that I knew about and compare them to the 444 Maple West/Tequila Grande proposal.

As far as I can tell from this “sample of convenience”, the 444 Maple West proposal surpasses anything else in town for density (dwelling units per acre), height, and closeness to the road.  The only thing even close to it in density is the Vienna Villager, which is a small building shoehorned into an oddly-shaped lot off Locust Street SE.  Even then, that four-story building is one-third shorter and substantially further from the road than 444 Maple West is.  (And I note that Cedar Street should be Cedar Lane in the graphic below, but I’m not going to take the time to fix it.)

It’s entirely possible that I missed some significant apartment or condo complex.  But if the four that I identified can be considered typical of Vienna, then 444 Maple West is not typical, even when compared to other apartment and apartment-style condos in Vienna.  It’s taller, closer to the road, and has higher density than what we currently have in town.

As near as I can tell, none of these buildings has any issue with generating cut-through traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods.  The Vienna Villager and Park Terrace complexes both exit directly onto Locust, a block from Park.  They have stoplight-controlled access to Maple via Park or Glyndon.  The Cedar Lane apartments exit directly onto Cedar Lane.

Finally, what about the proposed 380 Maple West development?  The Town Council has signaled that the developer is likely to submit that one before the 9/30/2018 temporary moratorium on MAC buildings begins.  That will be 40 condos on about 0.85 acres, or 47 dwelling units per acre.  So that will be about as dense as the Vienna Villager, but taller and closer to the road.