A new landmark for Alexandria
Shuttered mall will give way to Inova hospital project
Mark Jinks sees the unoccupied, former site of Landmark Mall as a blemish on Alexandria.
“When everybody drives by, they’re like, ‘What’s going on here? It’s closed. Why doesn’t the city do something?’” says Jinks, the city manager of Alexandria.
After working for 16 years to see the 52-acre site redeveloped, Jinks feels the city has partnered with the right team to finally tackle the expansive project.
In late December, the city announced an initial agreement with local real estate development firm Foulger-Pratt, Texas-based real estate management company The Howard Hughes Corp. (which owns the mall), real estate investment trust Seritage (which is responsible for the old Sears department store) and Inova Health System to build a 4-million-square-foot, mixed-use, walkable community anchored with a new hospital campus. “Now we’re ready to kind of work together and take that next big step,” Jinks says.
Highlights of what developers are describing as a “transformative project” for Alexandria’s West End include a $1 billion investment from Inova to relocate and expand its current Alexandria Hospital, plus residential properties and retail offerings. The development will boast a central plaza, along with parks and public spaces, as well as a transit hub and a new Alexandria Fire-EMS station.
The current Inova Alexandria Hospital located on Seminary Road opened back in 1962. “We had been seeking an opportunity to modernize that hospital,” explains Inova President and CEO Dr. J. Stephen Jones.
Growing the hospital at its current location would be next to impossible, Jinks points out. “The problem is that it’s in the middle of a residential neighborhood.”
More than a year ago, Inova began talking with the city about building a new hospital at the Landmark Mall site. The nonprofit health system plans to invest $1 billion into building a campus that will include a larger emergency room, private patient rooms, a new cancer institute and a medical office building for specialty physicians.
The hospital at Landmark Mall will be a Level II trauma center, meaning it will offer 24-hour coverage by a surgeon and an anesthesiologist. “Right now, if you are a Level II trauma patient in Alexandria, you actually get transported out of the community to another hospital,” says Stephanie Landrum, president and CEO of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership.
For Inova executives, a key feature of the Landmark Mall site is that it offers enough room to build a facility capable of adapting as health care needs evolve.
At the new hospital campus, for instance, Jones wants it to be as simple as flipping a switch to convert rooms to negative pressure, a method of infection control that channels air that comes out of the patient’s room through filters. “This new facility should serve the community as well 30 years from now as it does when it opens,” Jones says.
The city of Alexandria plans to issue $54 million in bonds to buy the property, which will then be leased to Inova, and an additional $76 million in bonds for site preparation and infrastructure work. Jinks expects the development to generate $778 million in tax revenue over the life
of the bonds, which will easily cover the cost of principal and interest.
During a virtual community meeting about the proposed Landmark Mall redevelopment held in January, citizens mainly posted concerns about traffic and noise. “These are issues we have good answers for,” Landrum says.
Noise from ambulances and fire trucks can be mitigated using flashing lights instead of sirens when possible and with rules regarding idling, she says.
One of the advantages of the Landmark Mall site is that it sits adjacent to Interstate 395, Landrum points out. “It’s not like they’re going to be coming through residential roads to get to the hospital, which is frankly one of the complaints we get about the current [hospital on Seminary Road].”
Developers hope to begin construction by 2023, with the first retail shops opening in 2025.