Proposed Inova office repurposing would add housing, park space in Merrifield

(Updated at 3:55 p.m. on 8/4/2022) A developer that specializes in “live/work lofts” has set its sights on a pair of Merrifield office buildings being vacated by Inova Health System.

The buildings at 8110 Gatehouse Road and 2990 Telestar Road will be renovated and repurposed, respectively, as live-work units and workforce housing under a rezoning proposal that Fairfax County received from Madison Highland Live Work Loft Services LLC on July 25.

Madison Highland consists of the developers Madison Marquette and Highland Square Holdings. Formed in April to build more live-work communities in the U.S., it is also behind a live-work development proposed for the Skyline Center in Bailey’s Crossroads.

Inova had been using the Gatehouse and Telestar buildings as its corporate headquarters for the past 12 years, but the nonprofit is consolidating those operations on its main campus to the south, according to a July 22 statement of justification.

“This creates a unique opportunity to repurpose the newly vacant buildings…while furthering a number of important County policies,” McGuireWoods attorney Mike Van Atta wrote, citing the county’s goals to expand the availability of workforce housing and park space.

Inova confirmed that its Gatehouse and Telestar offices will be relocated to the Inova Center for Personalized Health (8100 Innovation Park Drive) this fall.

Fairfax County introduced live-work development as a new residential use with the revised zoning code adopted in 2021, defining it as:

A structure or part of a structure with areas specifically designed for occupancy by a single owner, tenant, or user to accommodate a residential dwelling unit and a flexible work space. This use does not include a home-based business that would be permitted in a single-family detached dwelling.

In its application, Madison Highland proposes turning the Gatehouse building into 210 live-work units that could range in size from 600 to 1,300 square feet. The individual units could be used as housing, offices, joint residential/office space “or any combination of those uses.”

The Telestar building, which was built in 1969, is being planned for up to 82 workforce dwelling units that will have one or two bedrooms. All units will be reserved for residents who earn 60% of the area median income or below.

Both buildings will be fully renovated, but their core structures “will be preserved to the extent possible,” the statement of justification says. The heights — six stories for the Gatehouse building and four for the Telestar building — will remain the same.

Possible amenities for residents include “outdoor living spaces,” recreational areas, fitness facilities, co-working areas, conference rooms, dog washing facilities, and music practice rooms.

The proposed park space in Madison Highland’s Gatehouse and Telestar development (via Fairfax County)

The developers have also proposed new public park spaces that they say will “represent the largest contribution to Merrifield’s public open space network in recent history.”

According to the submitted development plan, about 86,500 square feet of open space — or 23% of the combined 8.53-acre sites — will be provided, split between 40,000 square feet for the Gatehouse building and 46,500 square feet for the Telestar one.

The plan shows three new parks: one on an existing parking lot adjacent to Telestar Court, one in front of the Gatehouse building centered on a fountain, and a pocket park dubbed “the Ellipse” at the Gatehouse building’s northwest corner.

It also features a “reflective” garden for residents, a new sidewalk connection between the two buildings, and pickleball courts on the roof of the Gatehouse property’s existing five-story parking garage.

The new green space will eliminate over 200 surface parking spaces between the two sites, according to the application. The Gatehouse building will still have 650 spaces in its garage, and the Telestar building will retain 111 spaces for residents — 20 fewer spaces than required.

“This parking reduction is justified by close proximity to transit and other neighborhood services as well as the well-documented reduction in parking demand for housing affordable at the proposed AMI levels,” Van Atta wrote.

Photo via Google Maps