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Developer of Oakton’s AT&T campus scales back housing, preserves more trees

(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) A proposal to redevelop AT&T’s campus in Oakton with housing and retail has undergone some changes since it went before the Fairfax County Planning Commission in March.

Joined by county planners, developer EYA presented a revised concept to the community on Oct. 2 that cut back slightly on the number of proposed apartments, while tweaking the site layout to allow more open and green space.

The developer is now seeking 1,000 residential units, down from the 1,500 units it suggested when nominating 3033 Chain Bridge Road for the county’s site-specific comprehensive plan amendment (SSPA) process last year. Like before, the new concept calls for townhomes and multi-family buildings, but the latter have been scaled down and would include condominiums as well as rental apartments.

The current plan also envisions 100,000 to 120,000 square feet of retail concentrated at the 33-acre site’s northwest corner near Jermantown Road. The retail space would be accompanied by a plaza and a promenade along a new street cutting through the property from Chain Bridge Road.

“[Our vision is] to transform an underutilized commercial property into an appropriately-scaled mixed-use neighborhood serving destination,” EYA Executive Vice President Evan Goldman said in earlier comments to FFXnow on behalf of CB Oakton Associates LLC, the applicant. “The new development will respect the existing residential context while creating a new, highly-amenitized gathering place for the community.”

As authorized by the Board of Supervisors on April 11, county staff are crafting an amendment that would allow residential mixed-use development, including retail and office uses, on the AT&T campus.

The county is considering raising the site’s floor-area ratio (FAR) to 1.0, meaning the amount of building allowed could roughly equal the amount of land available, according to a presentation from last week’s meeting. The site is currently developed at 0.31 FAR and could go up to 0.4 FAR under the existing comprehensive plan.

The comprehensive plan amendment will establish guidelines for EYA’s development plan, which it anticipates submitting to the county for review this fall.

EYA says its conceptual design has evolved significantly in response to public input from almost 20 community meetings as well as the planning commission’s March 23 SSPA workshop, when several residents raised concerns about potential impacts on traffic, pedestrian safety, local schools and the trees surrounding the property.

In addition to reducing the amount of housing, the developer added a community park to supplement the adjacent Borge Street Park, while turning a planned central park into the retail plaza.

(Correction: This story initially said the central park was replaced by the Borge Street Park expansion. EYA says it considered an “either/or” scenario but ultimately “found a feasible way to incorporate both into our current design.”)

It also removed one of the two new road connections from Flagpole Lane and is looking at pedestrian and bicycle improvements, including a shared-use trail around the site’s perimeter, “proper” sidewalks on Flagpole and crosswalks at any intersections with a traffic signal or stop sign.

Goldman says the design changes will enable the developer to preserve trees along both White Granite Drive and Chain Bridge Road, where a nature play area, dog park and other amenities are proposed.

The Borge Street Park extension was a key request of Options for Oakton, a community group originally formed in 1998 that helped advocate for the construction of the Oakton Library and Oakton Community Park. The group has conducted a couple of resident surveys to get feedback on EYA’s proposal.

“What we’re hearing from the community is that they just really prefer less density, which would then equate to less traffic, fewer cars, [less] crowding of schools,” Options for Oakton member Barbara Heard told FFXnow, noting that the group is “excited about the potential” of the development but wants it to be in keeping with the “park-like feel” of Oakton.

Not all Oakton residents are wary of the added density, however.

Brooks Stephens, a member of the housing advocacy group YIMBYs of NoVA, says he lives near the “big eye sore” of the AT&T site and would love to see the mostly vacant corporate office building and accompanying asphalt parking lot replaced by housing and public green space.

“This lot cannot remain as an abandoned parking lot forever,” Stephens said. “I think the redevelopment proposal is very thoughtful in keeping the mature trees that currently flank the edge of the lot while also providing a much-needed influx of housing units to a desirable area.”

He’s also hopeful that the redevelopment could “help kickstart” safety improvements on Jermantown Road and in the Blake Lane corridor, which was an area of concern even before a reportedly speeding driver killed two Oakton High School students in June 2022.

In a statement to FFXnow, YIMBYs of NoVA said it understands local concerns about traffic but argued that the AT&T site is “a great location for more density” to address the county’s housing affordability challenges and limit urban sprawl, giving future residents access to the Vienna Metro station and new I-66 Parallel Trail.

“More density — especially near transit — does not have to mean more traffic,” YIMBYs wrote. “Well-planned mixed-use areas with viable car alternatives — bus lines, metro lines, bike & ped paths — can allow for density without the traffic.”

EYA is confident that it can find a balance between the two different perspectives, Goldman says.

“While competing interests are always common during development, [EYA] is committed to transparency on its study of traffic and density — among several other factors — during the design process to produce a win-win solution for the Oakton neighborhood,” he told FFXnow.

Fairfax County planners will continue outreach on the forthcoming comprehensive plan amendment over the next few months before releasing a draft potentially in spring 2024.

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