High-rise apartment building approved for office complex near Spring Hill Metro

The newly approved City House residential high-rise from across Spring Hill Road in Tysons (via DCS Design/Fairfax County)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has agreed to let a planned office building near the Spring Hill Metro station become an apartment high-rise instead.

At a public hearing on July 25, the board unanimously approved American Real Estate Partners’ City House proposal, a move that both the county and developer hope will catalyze change in a largely dormant part of Tysons.

“I think we’re optimistic that these improvements will ensure a revitalization of this area,” Walsh Colucci land use lawyer Lynne Strobel said, representing the developer. “It’s an area that has been rather slow to redevelop under the Tysons plan. Even though there have been approvals, not much has been built, so we’re hopeful this will activate this part of Tysons.”

Part of the 31.5-acre Spring Hill Station demonstration project approved in 2011, City House will bring a 410,000-square-foot high-rise residential building with up to 410 multifamily units to the Highline at Greensboro District office complex (8401 Greensboro Drive).

Dubbed Building E3 in the demonstration project plan, which called for 7.5 million square feet of mixed-use development, the site was approved for a 20-story office building in 2013, but that’s no longer viable, given the current state of the office market, Strobel told the board.

The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority shared last month that the county’s office vacancy rate of 16.7% is its highest in 10 years. In Tysons, residential development has surged past office development over the past decade, raising some concerns among county officials about maintaining the balance between housing and jobs sought by the comprehensive plan.

The two office buildings currently standing in the Highline at Greensboro District will remain. Two other residential buildings planned for the future neighborhood could also become a hotel or retail and service space.

While no commercial space is proposed in City House, the building will come with a Highline Plaza outside the main entrance, a pocket park called Highline Square, and an urban park with recreational amenities and a performance stage on top of the existing, 1,500-space parking garage. The three publicly accessible parks will total approximately 1 acre in size.

Other improvements promised by American Real Estate Partners include new sidewalks, a designated left-turn lane into the Spring Hill Business Center on Spring Hill Road, a 5-foot-wide bicycle lane, and a two-lane extension of Broad Street from Spring Hill Road to a future Logan Street.

Though they support the City House project overall, the nearby Rotunda Condominiums residents remain disappointed that the Broad Street segment won’t be in its final four-lane configuration, according to William Lawson Jr., an attorney representing the condo association’s board of directors.

“We understand after meeting with the applicant on site why that is not possible,” Lawson said, reiterating concerns about the county’s reliance on developers to build out the Tysons street grid that he also shared at a planning commission hearing on July 12. “…The completion of Broad Street, we believe, would relieve a lot of traffic on Greensboro [Drive].”

County planner Sunny Yang confirmed that the full construction of Broad Street “will depend on the redevelopment of adjacent properties,” including the former Container Store that the county turned into The PARC at Tysons.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said she sees City House as an opportunity to “turn existing, less useful space” into urban space with housing and amenities for both residents and the wider community.

“They’re bringing more opportunities for people to be able to stay and enjoy, live or work in Tysons,” she said. “I think it’s important that we be flexible, knowing that there’s a need for housing and a little less in office space now, so I think this is a creative solution.”