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Massive Inova expansion in Franconia gets planning commission’s support

(Updated at 3:55 p.m.) Inova is one step closer to getting the planned expansion of its Franconia-Springfield medical campus to 21 acres.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission voted unanimously last night (Wednesday) to endorse an amended plan for the multi-million dollar Inova HealthPlex on Walker Lane and bordering the Franconia-Springfield Parkway.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to hold a public hearing and, possibly, vote on approving the plan at the end of this month (June 28). A concurrent rezoning application for the project is scheduled to go before the planning commission on July 20.

The amended, consolidated plan calls for the five-story, 146,000-square-foot Inova medical building to remain with the addition of three new six-story medical buildings. All told, it would add 296,000 square feet of medical care, medical offices, and ancillary/support uses to create a “regional medical campus.”

As noted in last night’s meeting, the additions mean an updated emergency room, modernized inpatient and outpatient facilities, more centrally located offices, and better parking.

There’s also an option to add upward of 500,000 square feet of more medical space, hotels, residential, or, even, retail to the parcel of land next door.

This is all being done within just over half a mile from the Franconia-Springfield Metro station.

“The proposed Medical Campus Option for 1,000,000 square feet of medical care, medical office, and ancillary uses in Land Units S and U would help to address the healthcare needs of the region’s residents and creates an opportunity to promote Transit-Oriented Development at this location,” reads the staff report.

If the board approves the plan later this month, construction could start by late 2023 with a completion date of 2027.

The Franconia-Springfield project was first announced in May 2020. It’s part of a dramatic overhaul of the Inova system, including a whole new facility in Alexandria.

The planning commission’s discussion of the proposal touched on a new roundabout that will hopefully slow down traffic and allow emergency vehicles to exit and enter the facility more swiftly. There was talk about updated and repaved trails, but concerns remained regarding how protected pedestrians will be from “high speed traffic” on the Franconia-Springfield Parkway.

Commenters also raised noise concerns. During the public hearing portion, one neighbor who lives just behind the site for the new facilities on Ayers Meadow Lane expressed fear that the addition of potentially thousands of new employees could lead to more noise and traffic in the area — plus, the ambulances.

“When you are talking about ambulances going up and down the street, how many will have their sirens on in the middle of the night?” the neighbor said.

County staff and Inova representatives responded that they are commissioning a noise study, will work on noise abatement measures, and generally trust drivers to know when to use their sirens. They appreciate the “burden” neighbors will be taking on with the added noise but cautioned that ambulances not using their sirens isn’t an option.

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