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County board OKs Somos project to speed up the creation of workforce housing in Tysons East

A development expected to significantly increase the availability of workforce housing in Tysons East won the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ approval on Tuesday (Oct. 11).

The board voted unanimously in support of SCG Development’s proposal to replace a six-story office building at 1750 Old Meadow Road with two connected, 8-story residential buildings with 453 workforce housing units.

At least 300 units affordable in the Somos project will be priced for households earning 60% or less of the area median income (AMI) in a unique agreement with Capital One that will transfer the affordable housing obligations for its nearby campus to SCG.

“Affordable and workforce housing need to happen everywhere in the county, and our economic engine needs to see that as well,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said. “From an equity and economic development perspective, it’s a major step forward in our ongoing development as an economically vibrant and inclusive community.”

Between Capital One Center and the Scotts Run North site it acquired in 2019, Capital One is on the hook for 1,727 housing units, including 178 affordable or workforce dwelling units (WDUs) — a reduction of the 356 units planned before the county revised its WDU policy for Tysons.

However, all of the WDUs would’ve been provided at 60% AMI, and no residential buildings have been constructed in either project yet, according to a county staff report.

The new arrangement with SCG will provide more WDUs, serve lower income levels, and accelerate their construction, Hunton Andrews Kurth partner John McGranahan Jr. told the board as the developer’s legal representative.

Somos will now consist entirely of workforce dwelling units (via Fairfax County)

“They would be delivered much sooner than if these other projects built out over the next 10 to 20 years,” he said.

To ensure the Somos project’s long-term affordability, the 4-acre site will be conveyed to the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA), which will then lease the newly constructed property to SCG for a 99-year term.

The Board of Supervisors authorized the agreement between SCG, Capital One and FCRHA by a 9-1 vote, with Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity expressing opposition to the use of public funds for the project.

The county has increasingly turned to public-private partnerships as it aims to create 10,000 more units of affordable housing by 2035. The board awarded $33.6 million in public financing to Somos in August, a model also used for Tysons’ upcoming Dominion Square West project and the Ovation at Arrowbrook residences under construction near the Innovation Center Metro station.

The Somos funds consist of about $13 million in local tax dollars, $19 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds, and $1.2 million in developer contributions. The project’s total cost per unit is about $451,000, including “just shy of $30,000” in local funds, Fairfax County Housing and Community Development Director Tom Fleetwood said.

“Government-subsidized housing at $450K a unit paid for by people who can’t really afford that themselves is an issue for me,” Herrity said.

Palchik and Board Chairman Jeff McKay countered that the funds are an “important investment” in the community, noting that the site’s proximity to the McLean Metro station, Tysons Corner Center and other amenities makes it particularly valuable.

Somos will include 1.21 acres of publicly accessible park space (via Fairfax County)

Sandwiched between Scotts Run to the north and the Highland District to the south, Somos will have 1.21 acres of privately owned but publicly accessible park space, including a 21,008-square-foot Meadow Gardens park, a 6-foot-wide recreational trail, and a “play and pedestrian court area,” according to the approved plan.

Built in 1984, the existing, vacant office building will be demolished, but SCG will retain the property’s three-story parking garage as the base of one of its residential mid-rises.

After working with county staff, the developer moved the development’s main entrance from Old Meadow Road to the Lincoln Street that will eventually connect Tysons East to Pimmit Hills. A driveway off of Old Meadow will be limited to loading and emergency vehicle activities, leaving room for a park and a tree grove, according to McGranahan.

In a concession to the community, the time frame for when construction will be allowed has been shortened by two hours, and a “point of contact” will be provided to handle comments or concerns, McGranahan said.

“I think this is a very important investment in our community and ensuring the housing that we wish to see,” Palchik said.