Apartment building with retail proposed for former Fuddruckers site in Fairfax

A proposed mixed-use development concept for the northeast corner of Chain Bridge Road and Fairfax Blvd (via Fairfax City)

The vacant Fuddruckers building along Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) in Fairfax City may not be standing for much longer.

The site at 3575 Chain Bridge Road, which has been empty since the burger joint closed in 2017, is being eyed for a potential mixed-use development that would also encompass the adjacent Exxon gas station and Tobacco Hut lots, covering about 2.3 acres total at the corner of Chain Bridge and Fairfax Blvd (Route 50).

While no formal application has been submitted yet, a development concept is scheduled to be presented to the Fairfax City Council at a work session tonight (Tuesday). It went to the city’s planning commission for feedback on Sept. 25.

According to a staff report, the potential concept from Chain Bridge LLC would transform the site with an 8-story, mixed-use building featuring about 271 apartments and 2,253 square feet of retail uses on the ground floor.

The project would also include a five-level, 316-space parking garage, approximately 1,662 square feet of open space on Chain Bridge Road and two new streets: a Northfax Street extending east from Chain Bridge and a not-yet-named north-south road off of Fairfax Blvd.

“This mixed-use development aims to transform the current car-centric commercial area into a vibrant urban block. The mid-rise structure will place retail, residential lobby, and amenity areas along Northfax Street’s extension,” Justin Johnson, vice president of real estate development for JM International, wrote in a Sept. 11 letter to the city.

The letter indicates that the residential units will be apartments, averaging 775 square feet in size. About 65% of the units will be studio or one-bedroom apartments, and the remaining units would have two bedrooms. The applicant says it would commit to making 6% of the units affordable in accordance with the city’s still relatively new Affordable Dwelling Unit program.

Johnson said the proposal “aligns with the vision of creating a bustling pedestrian-focused pathway along Northfax Street,” as laid out by the Northfax Small Area Plan that the city council approved in June 2020.

According to the letter, the property owner had reached a lease agreement with a new tenant for the Fuddruckers building in May when the city’s Economic Development team contacted them to “relay the City’s eagerness to see the Fuddruckers demolished and the road network extended as soon as possible.”

At last week’s briefing on the concept, the planning commission raised concerns about the building’s height and limited retail space.

The property owner looked at providing up to 3,000 square feet of retail, but determined that “unfortunately eats away at the needed residential lobby and amenity space,” Johnson said.

In order to make the development work, JM International says it would need a density increase of up to 125 units per acre, a 33% reduction from the city’s residential parking requirement, a waiver from parallel parking on the new north-south street and “a moderate amount” of retail frontage adjacent to Chain Bridge.

The garage parking spaces would be broken down into 305 spaces for residents and 11 for the retail. The concept also proposes 12 parallel parking spaces off-site along Northfax Street.

Without the requested incentives, the project risks “becoming merely a standalone retail location,” the letter said.

In addition to replacing a gas station and underutilized retail buildings with housing, the proposed concept would improve the site’s accessibility and ease traffic congestion between Old Town Fairfax and I-66 with the Northfax Street extension, according to the developer.

“By replacing an aging structure situated at a key intersection, the project introduces additional residents and rejuvenates the area,” Johnson wrote. “Given these compelling features, the project holds a high likelihood of realizing its envisioned success.”