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Scotts Run wins county approval to turn vacant block into park of some kind

A conceptual rendering for The Block at Scotts Run, which will occupy a currently vacant lot in Tysons (via Fairfax County/VIKA Virginia)

Will it be a hub for food trucks? How about an indoor spa, or a trampoline park with pop-up retail stalls? Why not all of the above?

Cityline Partners, the developer behind the Scotts Run neighborhood in Tysons, can let its imagination run wild — to a point — after the Fairfax County Planning Commission approved its proposal on Wednesday (April 27) to “activate” the 1600 block of Anderson Road.

Right now, the empty 3.5-acre lot is serving as a construction staging area while work continues on Heming, a 28-story apartment complex with retail set to open at Scotts Run next year.

Under the approved development plan, Cityline can add recreational, entertainment, and pop-up retail and restaurant activities to the site on an interim basis for the next 20 years.

“We think this is an exciting opportunity to bring life to this gateway at Tysons East,” said Holland & Knight land use attorney David Schneider, who represented the developer at the planning commission’s public hearing.

Located across the street from The Kingston and Haden apartment buildings and within a mile of the McLean Metro station, The Block at Scotts Run can host activations that fall under five categories:

  • Quasi-public park
  • Outdoor commercial recreation
  • Indoor commercial recreation
  • Retail
  • Restaurant

Those are broad categories, as defined by the county’s recently updated zoning code. Outdoor commercial recreation, for example, encompasses everything from mini golf to drive-in movie theaters and amusement park rides.

There will be a 90-foot height limit and a maximum of 30,000 square feet of gross floor area, but the plan is intended to be flexibile, allowing the site to change with the seasons and the community’s needs.

While there was no hint at the public hearing of what direction Cityline hopes to take, Schneider told the planning commission that the developer “has fielded numerous calls” from other parties interested in using the lot. He noted that everything will still need to go through the county’s site plan review and permitting processes.

“We’re going to have to comply and get every structure permitted, so what we’re trying to do now is just avoid the need to add six months to every activation to come back and get a determination that it’s in conformance” with the plan, Schneider explained.

Planning Commission Vice Chair John Ulfelder, who represents Dranesville District, speculated that The Block could become “very popular” with nearby residents, raising the potential for conflict when Cityline ultimately develops the property.

Approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 2013, the master plan for Scotts Run calls for an 18-story office building called the Westgate and a 21-story residential high-rise dubbed the Van Buren building on the site. The overall project will bring 6.5 million square feet of development to 30 acres of Tysons East when completed.

“[The Block] might become a very popular site, and to me, that means that when it comes to the end, there could be a lot of people who are not going to be happy,” Ulfelder said.

At Ulfelder’s suggestion, the commission secured a commitment that Cityline will provide signage at the site explaining the long-term plan, so visitors will be aware that the amenities there are temporary.

“We all know providing people space to gather informally not only enhances the desirability of an area, but also promotes a greater collective good,” Providence District Commissioner Phil Niedzielski-Eichner said. “…I support the applicant’s initiative to create a space for people to gather as a visionary alternative to an empty lot.”

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