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Proposed Hilton hotel in Tysons encounters skepticism from county staff

Fairfax County staff aren’t sold on a development proposal to replace a planned office building in Scotts Run with a dual-branded Hilton hotel.

Developer Cityline Partners is seeking to construct a 17-story hotel building with a four-level parking garage at the intersection of Dolley Madison Blvd and Anderson Road in the Tysons neighborhood.

Totaling 263 units, the hotel will be split between Home2 Suites, which is designed for extended stays, and Canopy by Hilton, a boutique brand that draws “on the spirit and character” of the local area, according to the rezoning application. Hilton partner KM Hotels would manage the facility.

Issues with proposed service entrances for the site and a lack of park space, however, have led county staff to recommend that the Board of Supervisors and planning commission reject the application.

The planning commission was scheduled to discuss the application yesterday (Wednesday) but agreed to defer the public hearing to May 1, giving the developers more time to address staff’s concerns.

The challenges stem in part from the decision to split the 1.78-acre site known as the Westgate Block into two portions. Approved in 2013 as a single 18-story office building, the block will be divided into the Hilton hotel and a future residential or office building under the new proposal.

“From a design perspective, dividing the block into two distinct development areas creates unnecessary design challenges in circulation and access that would not otherwise exist with a unified development,” county staff said in a Feb. 29 report.

According to the application, the hotel’s primary vehicular entrance will be on Anderson Road, but a 36-foot-wide driveway for trash and loading activities is proposed on Platform Avenue, a planned “Main Street” for the Scotts Run development that will connect Anderson Road to South Dartford Drive.

The addition of a service entrance on Platform Avenue would disrupt the established vision of a retail-lined, pedestrian-oriented local street by “creating additional conflict points and detracting from the pedestrian experience,” county staff said.

Scotts Run developer Cityline Partners says the doors to the trash and loading area for Hilton’s hotel will blend in (via Fairfax County)

Cityline has offered to provide “high-quality” screening doors for the trash and loading area that will blend in with the surrounding building, along with bollards, decorative planters and other design and safety enhancements. But staff say the look and location are “still not optimal” for pedestrians.

“Staff continues to recommend that the applicant consider a redesign of the circulation to ensure the hotel and any future development can share access points and internal circulation through a shared parking garage…thereby eliminating the need for service entrances on Platform Avenue,” the report said, concluding that the applicant “has not demonstrated that this block can work as a bifurcated block” and meet county standards.

In addition, no parks are proposed for the Westgate Block, which should have either 0.16 acres or 0.53 acres of publicly accessible urban park space under the county’s requirements, depending on whether the second building is constructed as office or residential space.

The developer has asked to count three open spaces located elsewhere in Scotts Run — a 7,000-square-foot space at The Haden, a 5,800-square-foot plaza at the Mitre 4 building and a 3,000-square foot plaza on a future block — toward its park requirements.

But county staff argue those areas “do not qualify as functional park spaces.” The Haden and Mitre 4 spaces “are mostly comprised of building entryways and streetscape elements,” while the future Van Buren Corner Plaza will only be 0.07 acres in size and won’t have the “necessary amenities/features to be considered a viable park area.”

“There’s a lack of clarity on how these spaces will be effectively transformed into usable park areas,” staff said. “It is also staff’s concern that adopting this approach might create a precedent for future developments in managing park space inadequacies.”

The proposal got more support from the McLean Citizens Association, whose board of directors approved a qualified endorsement on March 6. The volunteer group doesn’t share county staff’s concerns about the trash and loading entryway, but it agrees that the lack of park space is problematic, per the resolution.

MCA also requested that the county study the “cumulative” impact of the hotel and other development in Scotts Run on traffic, particularly on Anderson Road and Dolley Madison Blvd.

Despite the concerns flagged by county staff, Cityline Partners says it remains confident in its new vision for this block of Scotts Run, which includes The Haden apartments, the Mitre 4 office building, Archer Hotel and the recently completed Heming.

“We have worked extensively on the remaining few staff issues and continue to address them with the County,” Cityline managing director Tasso Flocos told FFXnow. “We believe this Scotts Run urban hospitality use for Hilton will be well received and welcomed as a great and inviting addition to Tysons.”

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