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Big residential project approved for Penn Daw area as part of revitalization push

A major residential project is coming to the Penn Daw area (Image via handout/Fairfax County Government)

A major residential project by Lennar Corp. that has been years in the making has been approved for the Penn Daw area.

The owners of the 7.4-acre property — which has 16 parcels owned by Penn Daw Properties and Michael Strassburg — hope to redevelop five single-family homes and a commercial building with up to 46 stacked townhouses, 35 townhouses and a 385-unit apartment building that would stand up to seven stories tall.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the project, which required rezoning the property, at a Feb. 22 meeting. The project is located in the Penn Daw Community Business Center east of Richmond Highway and north of Shields Avenue.

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Daniel Storck said the county and applicant worked with many stakeholders to move the project — which he said has been “a long time coming” — forward. He noted that the project is one that “tells you that things are changing at Richmond Highway.”

“We leave no one behind as we redevelop this area,” he said.

The developer’s agent, Lynn Strobel, called the project a “gateway site.” She said the applicant intentionally moved utilities underground to improve the aesthetics of the site and worked through a number of typographical challenges to activate the site with appropriate residential elements.

A parking garage for the apartment building and 22 street parking spaces are planned. The applicant successfully sought a 26% reduction in parking spaces as required by the county. The project is next to Penn Daw Trailer Park, a 90-unit mobile home park that could also be slated for redevelopment in the future.

The site, which is near the future Penn Daw BRT station, includes a two-way cycle track and road connections to neighboring areas. A network of public open spaces, including an urban plaza along the frontage of Richmond Highway in front of the multifamily building, is also planned.

In recent years, the county has stepped up efforts to encourage revitalization of the Richmond Highway Corridor.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the project’s eligibility for tax abatement through the county’s Economic Incentive Program (EIP), which is designed to encourage revitalization of high-demand areas like the Richmond Highway Corridor.

Storck said those economic incentives were instrumental in pushing the project forward.

“In this case, we will see our investment paying off with a project that would not have been possible otherwise.”

At a Feb. 22 meeting, the board unanimously approved tax abatement efforts to help the project proceed.

The developers will be able to take advantage of roughly $1.3 million in tax abatement per year over 10 years. Staff noted that the proposed development is near a future Bus Rapid Transit station on Richmond Highway.

“In the case of this site, the property owners have sought redevelopment for over ten years but we’re strongly challenged by consolidation issues, among others,” according to a staff memo.

In September 2020, the county instituted the EIP program for the county’s five Commercial Revitalization Districts and Commercial Revitalization Areas, which include Richmond Highway, McLean, Seven Corners and Annandale. The program gives developers regulatory and financial incentives to proceed with development and revitalization efforts.

In 2015, the county worked with Prince William County, the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Virginia Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment on an 18-month study to revitalize the corridor. The plan — called Embark — sought to bring transit-oriented development to the area along with a surge in Bus Rapid Transit.

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