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Merging past and present: Old Town Fairfax to be new site of eight-story mixed-use development

A new eight-story mixed-use development will officially be moving into Old Town Fairfax.

The Fairfax City Council unanimously voted on Tuesday, July 11, to approve Ox Hill Companies‘ application to build City Centre West after a five-year-long planning process. Ox Hill anticipates breaking ground at 10501 Main Street in March 2024 and completing the project by spring 2026, according to a press release.

A 210,029-square-foot development spanning nearly 2 acres, City Centre West is slated to have 79 luxury condominium units and a penthouse, 7,731 square feet of restaurant and retail space, 8,584 square feet of medical office, and 10,079 square feet of general office, according to a presentation at the council meeting.

Commercial space has already been allocated for a drive-through Truist Bank and updated facilities for Infinite Technologies. The site will also include a public plaza for outdoor dining and public gatherings and an underground parking garage with 309 spaces.

“I think this is a very nice building. It’s a lot better than a burned down hookah bar,” Josh Alexander, a local restaurant business owner in Old Town Plaza, said during the public hearing. “Can we please move forward and grow? We’re getting outgrown by Fairfax County left and right.”

The building will be constructed predominantly out of brick to fit the historic charm of Old Town Fairfax, Ox Hill says. Visiting NYC-based architect Thomas Juul-Hansen conceived the building’s architecture, interior design and furniture.

“In the design of City Centre West, we selected quality materials that pay homage to the historic architecture, especially the use of brick,” Juul-Hansen said. “This was the first brick building I have ever designed, so it was an exciting challenge for me. The new building will coexist seamlessly with structures that have stood for two centuries, such as Fairfax’s federal buildings.”

Ox Hill further plans to add a connector road to Main Street that will provide access not only to City Centre West’s parking garage, but also the Fairfax County Judicial Complex in collaboration with the county, according to Bob Brant, a representative of Walsh Colucci Lubeley & Walsh PC.

Brant noted during the council meeting that the developer seeks to more closely connect the judicial complex — which the county is working to redevelop — to Old Town Fairfax and the City.

Brant also touted the eight-story height of City Centre West as a palatable transition for residents and visitors to the even taller buildings slated to accompany FCJC’s future redevelopment. However, not all agreed.

“This project completely disrespects the historic nature of Old Town Fairfax,” a resident of Old Town Fairfax since 1974 said. “[We] strongly oppose the City West project, which will be over 90 feet high. It will dwarf our city hall and the surrounding historical buildings on Main Street, one that rings in the death knell of the old town feel that used to be Fairfax. If Old Town Alexandria can keep its historic charm, then City Council can do the exact same thing for Old Town Fairfax.”

In addition to following the FCJC redevelopment, Brant said City Centre West’s mixed-use nature, provision of public open spaces and “buy-down” housing opportunities align with Old Town Fairfax Small Area Plan, which envisions adding thousands of new residential, office, retail, and institutional and arts spaces to the historic area.

Brant also said a key benefit of the project is Truist Bank relocating its regional headquarters to City Centre West, retaining around 100 jobs and $500,000 in bank franchise taxes.

The redevelopment will also replace four existing curb cuts with greenscape, add new stormwater management facilities, and implement sustainable building design with a green roof and LEED and WELL certifications, Brant said.

He also argued that, from a fiscal standpoint, the new development will help the city by encouraging visitors to spend money, rather than merely pass by the historic district, and bring in new annual tax revenues estimated at $1.4-1.9 million.

Though acknowledging these benefits, several community members continued voicing concerns with the project.

“We don’t really have a clear idea if the county’s bought into [the open space plan], and without knowing that, we’re really uncertain about whether there will be open space as a part of this development,” Douglas Stewart, a representative of Fairfax City Citizens for Smarter Growth, said. “…We think there really needs to be a clear, explicit commitment.”

Stewart urged the city to require Ox Hill to put five affordable dwellings units in City Centre West, which the council later acknowledged by approving the developer’s Affordable Housing modification request to provide these five units.

The resident who raised concerns that the project threats the “historic charm” of Old Town Fairfax accused the city of failing to notify those living or operating businesses within 2,000 feet of the proposed development about the public hearing. He claimed state Sen. Chap Petersen, for example, had “no idea” about the hearing.

A city official later responded that all local housing and business developments had been duly contacted.

The Old Town Fairfax local further objected to the plan due to its lack of environmental impact report, calling it a “mixed-use monstrosity” that fails to address climate change.

“How much is [City Centre West] going to increase the traffic, pollution, noise in the area? We don’t know,” he said. “This project will impact every citizen of Fairfax and every commuter traveling through this part of town for decades to come. If you think traffic in Fairfax is bad now, it’s going to get a lot worse.”

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