The day prior to our tour, Delta Associates reported that Washington DC faces tight demand and short supply for new condominiums for the next few years until built-from-scratch projects can better match demand.  Proof in point, EYA suspended marketing on their 60 unit office re-use project, called The Oronoco, to up their prices.   Units which range in size from 1,660 sf to 3,500 sf sell for $1.4 to $4 million.   And sell they do!  A year from completion, 41 of the 60 units have been snatched up by eager buyers.

This hot condo market helps to explain the energy level at the July 16 WBC Regional Development Committee tour arranged by John Markotic of Construction Risk Solutions, of the Oronoco Waterfront situated in Old Town Alexandria.  Employee-owned, Davis Construction is General Contractor for this EYA project.  Hosting the tour was Davis Construction President Jim Davis, along with Matt Boley, Project Manager and Mike Smith, Project Superintendent.

A little background on this Re-Use project:
In October 2011, EYA purchased the original 1984 building for $31 million, a brick and metal panel-clad step down, with a concrete waffle slab structure, which was owned and occupied by the Sheet Metal Workers Union National Pension Fund and it resemble a ship.  Shalom Baranes Associates provided the LEED Silver adaptive re-use design. The existing building was stripped down to the basic skeleton structure and some portions of the building were removed altogether to create two wings and a courtyard more amenable for a residential building.  Even some floor slabs were removed to create double height spaces for common amenity areas. The floor to floor heights are generous at just over 13 feet, yielding 10′ ceilings for most of the residential areas. The step-down design facilitated excellent Potomac River views throughout the project and multiple private terraces and a common pool terrace.   In addition to overlooking Oronoco Park and the Potomac and heated pool, the project will sport a number of impressive amenities commensurate with its price point: volume ceilings, floor to ceiling exterior glass walls, impressive lobby with security and concierge service commensurate with the price tag, 2 parking spaces per unit, private club house, fitness center, dog washing station, and wine cellar.

Construction Challenges
Matt Smith proclaimed the biggest challenge to the job is keeping the original construction schedule despite delays in starting the project.  Davis began construction in December 2012 with delivery scheduled for April 2014.   Not much time for a $42 million construction project.   On this site tour, we again heard how 3-D, Building Information Modeling (BIM) is playing a key role to coordinate structural systems, architectural design, and multiple sub-consultant project components.  Davis used an internal system to scan the entire building near the end of demolition phase.  Scan data was converted to model objects and added to the architectural model.  This tool provides Davis with an effective tool to resolve clashes between trades, architectural, and engineering disciplines.  A clever 2×6 wood sleeper system and sub-flooring was used to resolve finished floor elevation differences between interior and exterior spaces, provide space for running utilities and some additional acoustic separation.

As BIM is still relatively new to smaller residential subcontractors, there is a learning curve.  Sub contractors have varying degrees of familiarity with BIM.  Scanning provides exact as-built or existing conditions, which is very beneficial to identify potential issues early on.  While consuming more time to model and coordinate in 3-D versus traditional 3-D overlays, it has been used in construction as an aid to installers, giving visual and dimensional references on how systems are to function.

The Oronoco creates an Old Town Alexandria crown jewel in terms of unprecedented luxury living overlooking the Potomac River.  Yes, such luxury comes at a price that is rewarding the smart development team of EYA, Davis Construction and a host of other team members.  Sometimes when the market is soft and the economy down, smart money is assured in the faith that all recessions pass.

Authors: Rob Klein, Chuck Claar & Steve Knight