Located beside the Potomac River, the Sheet Metal Workers Union National Pension Fund building has been described as looking like an "urban jail" or a "beached cruise ship." Now, it serves as an example to developers on how to make an office-to-residential conversion go right rather than wrong. As an office building built in 1984, it became largely vacant by late 2011. Many companies turned away from the building as an option while office vacancy rates grew higher and higher in Alexandria. Some of the reasons why were that the 155,000-square-foot building was too small and too awkward-looking. While the aluminum-paneled exterior and solar collector-topped stepped terraces were intended to be innovative, they instead created one of the biggest eyesores on the Potomac River. Even with this in mind, Bethesda-based developer EYA was able to transform the office building into luxury condominiums that sold out within a few months. As the first major residential addition to the Alexandria waterfront done in over a decade, EYA's project became both a success and an example to other developers.
In order to remove the "eyesore" reputation of the building, EYA removed the aluminum exterior, reskinned the brown-brick facade for a red brick one, and installed floor-to-ceiling windows for a better view of the Potomac. With a "less is more" approach, they opted for 60 units rather than the allowed 110. Some of the many amenities built for the building included a dog washing room, outdoor pool, fitness center, and children's playroom. With the intention to market towards empty-nesters, each room was designed to be expansive and "open-style."
After opening the building as The Oronoco Waterfront Residences in August 2014, almost all of the units sold out within a few months, with prices between $1.59 million and $4.49 million.
· Mostly Vacant Office Building Nears Sellout as Luxe Condos [MultiFamily Executive]
· Riverfront Revival by Shalom Baranes [Architect's Newspaper Blog]
· Office Vacancy Hits Historic High in Alexandria [The Connection]