Post #449: The 11/8/2019 BAR work session on Sunrise at 380 Maple West

Posted on November 8, 2019

Four views of proposed Sunrise Assisted Living at 380 Maple West:  First sheet:  View from Maple Avenue, Wade Hampton; Second sheet:  View from Glen Avenue, and adjacent commercial lot.

380 Maple Ave W - Sunrise view of four sides


Source:  Plans posted by the Town of Vienna for the 11/8/2019 meeting of the Vienna BAR (.pdf), by Rust | Orling Architecture, Alexandria VA.

My wife and I attended this morning’s Board of Architectural Review meeting,  along with maybe a dozen other citizens.  There wasn’t much to report other than to say that the BAR is mostly OK with the building as it was presented.  You can see the building proposal, in more-or-less its current form, at the link given above.

For those of you who have been keeping score, Sunrise took the building it had already developed for Maple and Center (which got turned down by the Town), and more-or-less stretched it to fit this lot.  So it bears a more-than-passing resemblance to what had been proposed (but turned down) for Maple and Center.

There were a few things to note.

  • There will be a small (1000 square foot) cafe on the first floor that will be open to the public, and so will serve both Sunrise residents and Town residents generally.  I think the expectation is that this will not be a busy retail establishment.
  • The garage has entrances on both Maple and Wade Hampton, so that trucks, ambulances, and fire trucks can drive through the garage area, and will not have to turn around in the street (as was the case with the prior 380 Maple West proposal).
  • The proposed building will have two floors of memory care (dementia care) and one floor of general assisted living.  That’s likely to reduce the amount of traffic to the facility (compared to a facility with just one floor of memory care) due to generally lower family visit rates for those with advanced Alzheimer’s or other dementia.
  • They moved the back of the fourth floor 20′ further from Glen Avenue, in an attempt to make the building look smaller from Glen.
  • There’s a small green space at the back of the building that will be filled with plantings and so will not be “walkable” in any sense.
  • There’s a modest area in front of the cafe, on Maple, where it looks like there will be a couple of benches.  That, and the sidewalks, constitute the public open space for the building.
  • They will request that those leaving the building via Wade Hampton turn right toward Maple, instead of cutting through the neighborhoods.  (That will be done via a private no-left-turn sign at the garage outlet on Wade Hampton).
  • The building is a “true 54′ high”, in the sense that the top of the visible roof line (the parapets) will be no more than 54′ above the Maple Avenue grade (with the exception of the 56′ “tower” at the Wade Hampton/ Maple corner).  This is unlike the Tequila Grande/444 Maple West project, where the visible roof line (the parapet) averages closer to 60′ above Maple Avenue.  That said, the lot slopes down about 6′ between Maple and Glen Avenue, so the actual top-of-parapet height is about 60′ above Glen Avenue.
  • One unexplained oddity is that the BAR chairman, Mr. Layer, recused himself.


As a Glen Avenue resident, what can I say?  It’s still a big building.  It’s still going to be an imposing structure when viewed from across narrow little Glen Avenue.  But it’s likely to be a relatively quiet one, between the heavy emphasis on dementia care and more-or-less no retail business.

There’s no material amount of “open public space”, but I don’t miss that, and that’s on a par with (e.g.) the Chick-fil-a-car-wash.  That is, in terms of where the public may travel, you’ve got the sidewalks, and a couple of benches under an overhang in front of the cafe.

It’s hardly even worth noting how far this has strayed from the MAC statement of purpose and intent, in terms of open public space (parks and plazas), vibrant pedestrian retail district, and so on.  This is a commercial health-care facility and I expect there will be virtually zero interaction between it and the surrounding community.

Anyway, if that’s the deal, I’ll take it.   Screw destination retail, vibrant pedestrian blah-blah-blah, “gathering space”, and all the rest of whatever-it-is that the pro-MACers fantasize that we’re gaining from MAC.  On behalf of the neighbors, I’d say that a quiet and mostly-inoffensive building, sitting behind tall and dense landscaping, trumps all that imaginary benefit.

Given that we were in the line of fire, I’d say we’ve more-or-less dodged the MAC bullet here.  From where I sit, this is about as good as the existing MAC gets.