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A conceptual rendering of the southern portion of the redeveloped Huntington Metro station (via Fairfax County)

The Huntington Metro area is one step closer to redevelopment with last week’s approval of a comprehensive plan, albeit with a few “modifications.”

The Fairfax County Planning Commission quickly and unanimously approved the comprehensive plan amendment for the Huntington Transit Station Area (TSA) on Nov. 16, following a lengthy public hearing in October and a site visit by the commissioners on Nov. 10.

The plan calls for a mixed-use development on the site including 382,00 square feet of office, retail, and community-use space, a civic plaza, more urban park space, a network of bike and pedestrian paths, a possible hotel, and 15,000 residential units with a minimum of 15% of those being affordable.

It was put together by county staff with input from commissioners, the Mount Vernon Site-Specific Plan Amendment (SSPA) Task Force, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), and the public.

However, “minor differences” did crop up, particularly at the public hearing, which focused on building heights and preserving wooded areas.

“At the public hearing, there were several substantive concerns raised about the proposed building heights, environmental issues, and placemaking, as well as a few clarification questions,” the approved motion said.

After nearby residents worried about a loss of privacy for their smaller homes, the plan is lowering the maximum building height from 200 feet to 85 feet in the area between the middle parking garage and the homes on Biscayne Drive. This provides a more “appropriate transition,” the motion says.

Another tweak addressed concerns that a southern path connecting to the Metro might negatively affect wooded areas. While the plan now notes that “the design of this connection would minimize disturbance,” the actual design will be more specifically determined when the development goes through the rezoning process.

The stormwater measures were also revised to be “substantially more extensive” than the minimum requirements, per the motion.

The other modifications address flexibility around who might be responsible for maintenance at the proposed civic plaza, the importance of public places, and the potential for increased light pollution. They also clarify that 15% of the residential units built should be affordable, in line with countywide rates.

Notably, the plan continues to preserve a tract of trees near the intersection of Huntington Avenue and Biscayne Drive. WMATA proposed selling the land to a developer to build more townhomes, but homeowners wanted to keep the trees as a buffer from the developed station and help with stormwater runoff.

Next, the comprehensive plan amendment for the Huntington TSA will head to the Board of Supervisors for a vote currently scheduled for Dec. 6.

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The Vantage Hill townhouse redevelopment proposed in Reston (via Craftmark Homes)

A project to redevelop a portion of the Vantage Hill condominiums property in Reston with townhouses is barreling to final approval from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

At a Nov. 16 meeting, the Fairfax County Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of a plan to replace an abandoned swimming pool on the property at 11600 Vantage Hill Road with 28 townhouses.

Hunter Mill District Planning Commissioner John Carter said the project is critical to help stabilize an existing affordable housing community in Reston.

“It’s a small project with a significant impact on an older neighborhood,” Carter said.

The plan by Craftmark Homes will help the 152-unit condominium building on the property shore up for critical upgrades and maintenance needs. The sale of the property will address a backlog of long-needed upgrades.

In response to concerns from area residents, the developer refined its proffers to preserve more native plans and incorporate electric vehicle charging stations.

Each townhouse unit will have the opportunity to build a charging station and install solar panels, while the condo units will have the potential for five additional charging stations, Carter said.

The developer also tweaked its proffers to provide details for the timing of construction and overall management of the site when construction begins.

The change was made in response to concerns from residents of Mediterranean Villa, a residential community adjacent to the project area.

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The Roy Rogers on Belle View Blvd (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

(Updated at 4:20 p.m.) On an April day in 1968, Roy “King of the Cowboys” Rogers and his wife — “Queen of the West” Dale Evans — appeared in front of thousands along Leesburg Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads to open America’s first Roy Rogers.

“Inside the shoppe, Roy and Dale served up hot Roast Beef sandwiches to the first several customers,” promotional materials said at the time. “Over 5,000 autographed pictures of Roy and Dale were passed out to customers.”

Yes, despite the Old West motif and being named after a movie star cowboy, the fast food chain known for its roast beef and fried chicken began in Fairfax County, opening its first restaurant at 5603 Leesburg Pike.

Today, it’s now a McDonald’s set to undergo a revamp.

The story behind how Roy Rogers came to be born in Fairfax County starts with J. Willard Marriott, founder of the once-local but now-international hotel chain.

“Mr. Marriott wanted to get into the fast food business,” Jim Plamondon, co-president of Roy Rogers restaurants, told FFXnow. “Just like what Ray Kroc was doing with McDonald’s.”

Marriott began his career running a D.C. root beer shop before transitioning to a coffee shop-style eatery called Hot Shoppe. He opened his first hotel in Arlington in 1957.

But fast food was hot in the 1960s, and Marriott, an experienced restaurant owner, wanted a bite of that market too. So, when a new roast beef franchise called “RoBee’s House of Beef” opened in the Midwest, Marriott decided to acquire it, Plamondon explained.

Plamondon knows this history intimately. His father, Peter Plamondon Sr., was an executive in charge of Marriott’s restaurant division at the time, and he helped the hotel company launch its fast food business.

However, legal reasons prevented the company from acquiring RoBee’s trademark, so they needed a new name.

“One of the people on [Marriott’s] board of directors…said ‘Well, I know the agent for Roy Rogers, the cowboy,'” Plamondon said. “[Rogers] was a rock star back then. I mean, he was huge. He was as big as any movie star you would name today.”

Rogers was also very amendable to licensing his image and name to merchandise and businesses. At one point in the mid-20th century, more than 400 products had Roy Rogers’s name on them — second only to Walt Disney, per Rogers’s official website

Marriott and Roy Rogers struck an agreement, and the new fast food restaurant took on the Hollywood cowboy’s name. Read More

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The final piece of a massive mixed-used project near the Innovation Center Metro station is officially on track for approval.

At a Fairfax County Planning Commission meeting on Nov. 2, the commission unanimously gave developer DSVO Dulles approval to complete the development of just under three acres of mostly undeveloped land at 2310 Dulles Station Blvd.

The proposal is the last remaining undeveloped portion of the larger 58-acre Dulles Station development.

The applicant’s land use representative Mike Van Atta, a land use planner with the firm McGuireWoods, said the proposal was an “appropriate end-cap” for the overall development.

The plan includes a mixed-use apartment building with 510 units and seven stories. roughly 21,000 square feet of open space is proposed on the site, which would be flanked by townhouse-style units on either side of pedestrian mews. Retail is proposed on the ground floor of the building.

“It’s also the final piece of the puzzle for the completion of Dulles Station,” Van Atta said.

The developer elected to move forward with one of two separate development options for the building, which was previously approved in 2017 for either a mid-rise or high-rise building. The latest proposal favors a mid-rise building.

The approval came after discussion about the implication of the development on area schools.

Braddock District Commissioner Mary Cortina asked staff and the developer to examine if and how the county school system is prepared to handle students generated by the overall project, adding that the latest approval could bring at least one classroom full of elementary school students to the system.

“It would be good to know that we’ve committed to take a look at where we stand elementary school-wise,” Cortina said.

Hunter Mill District Commissioner John Carter also questioned why the development plan calls for single ramps instead of double ramps for pedestrians as they enter and exit the development.

Referring to challenges with pedestrian connectivity at The Boro in Tysons, Carter said that single ramps don’t do an efficient job of managing traffic.

“It sends people right out to the intersection with no regard to which way the traffic is coming,” Carter said.

He conceded that, while this was a “small point,” the overall application was “well worked out.”

Dranesville District Commissioner John Ulfelder noted that the overall application was consistent with previous approvals, the county’s zoning ordinance, and comprehensive planning documents.

“I like the straightforward applications. This one is,” he said.

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A rendering of the proposed Flats at Tysons Corner condominiums along Gallows Road (via Fairfax County)

For a small development, a proposal for 86 condominium units near the Fairfax Square shopping center in Tysons has turned out to be surprisingly vexing.

Fairfax County’s planning staff recommended denying developer Pulte Group’s rezoning application for a Flats at Tysons Corner last Wednesday (Nov. 2), taking issue primarily with the size and location of sites for loading and trash collection.

“Operationally, the on-street loading has the potential to negatively impact and disrupt the pedestrian experience and safety and has the potential to impede vehicular travel,” planner Mary Ann Tsai said at the Fairfax County Planning Commission public hearing. “Design-wise, the on-street loading spaces do not meet the geometric size or location requirements in the zoning ordinance or public facilities manual.”

Pulte hopes to replace a parking lot at 1953 Gallows Road, right behind Patsy’s American, with two multifamily residential buildings and about 17,000 square feet of park space, including publicly accessible urban and pocket parks and a Gateway Plaza on Gallows.

The plan also calls for a 10,700-square-foot pop-up plaza in the parking lot between the residences and an existing, 8-story office building owned by The Meridian Group.

The property would have a new, private street and a Road A extending from what’s currently an entrance off Gallows Road. Initially designated as private, Road A would be the beginnings of a public grid street envisioned in the Tysons Comprehensive Plan as eventually connecting Gallows to Route 7.

The Flats at Tysons Corner would consist of two condo buildings with park space (via Fairfax County)

In addition to 111 garage parking spaces on the ground floors of the residential buildings, the developer has proposed two on-street loading spaces: one on the private street and one on Road A that would be removed once it becomes a public street.

County staff objected to having loading spots on the street and noted that they would only be 8 feet wide — below the 15 feet required for off-street loading spaces in the county zoning ordinance and the 10 to 11-foot minimum in the public facilities manual.

“I just think the loading dock…doesn’t work well for a whole variety of reasons, not least of which it’s not wide enough, it’s at somebody’s front door, and it conflicts with the impression of this project,” Hunter Mill District Commissioner John Carter said, noting a semi-truck wouldn’t fit in the spaces.

Staff have been trying to work with Pulte, but the 5.4-acre site is too small for a service road, and the developer has been “unwilling” to redesign the buildings to allow interior loading, Tsai told the planning commission.

Notably, Pulte can only redevelop a portion of the site, since Meridian plans to keep its office building and an accompanying 3-story parking garage. Other neighboring property owners also declined to sell.

DLA Piper attoreny Antonio Calabrese, who represented Pulte at the hearing, argued the development would enhance the property, bringing residents to a block intended as a transition between residential neighborhoods south of Gallows Road and Tysons Corner Center to the north of Route 7.

It would also provide gathering spaces for residents, visitors and workers at the adjacent office building with food trucks, outdoor seating, art and landscaping, including along Gallows.

“I think it was Voltaire who talked about not letting perfection get in the way of very good. From my perspective, looking at this site, which is just asphalt parking…this is a much better use,” Calabrese said. Read More

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Capital One Center sign with map of development plan (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Capital One has officially gotten permission to build a temporary baseball diamond and two permanent parks near its headquarters in Tysons.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission approved two separate plans for recreational amenities on Oct. 26, setting the stage for work on the baseball field to potentially finish in time for the upcoming spring season.

Options for sports and recreation at Capital One Center are currently limited, aside from the Perch Putt mini golf course that opened this spring. The campus previously had an interim baseball field that was later replaced by Capital One Hall and other buildings.

“Having these amenities provides more things to do, reasons to visit, reasons to stay longer, and that dynamic is fantastic from a recruiting and retention standpoint for Capital One,” said McGuireWoods Managing Partner Greg Riegle, who represented the banking company at the public hearing. “It supports the growing retail program, and it’s equally beneficial to the surrounding community around the [McLean Metro] station.”

The first application calls for an urban park on the existing Capital One Center campus near the Metro tracks. Built on an underground parking garage, the park will have a water feature, landscaping, a boardwalk, a playground and an area for food trucks.

A temporary retail building and athletic facilities, including volleyball and pickleball courts, are also planned. They will eventually be replaced by a 33-story residential building and a 20-story office building.

Capital One will build an urban park on its headquarters campus in Tysons (via Fairfax County)

The second approved application details plans for Capital One East, previously known as Scotts Run North until Capital One bought it from developer Cityline Partners in 2019.

Currently occupied by a parking lot used for Capital One Hall, the 6.9-acre property at 1820 Dolley Madison Blvd will host a 33,410-square-foot, publicly accessible park and up to 1.5 million square feet of development when fully built out.

Capital One East Park will include a water feature, landscaping, a play area, a fitness zone, a plaza and seating area, and food truck parking, according to a county staff report.

Before those future buildings come into place, Capital One will provide a baseball field primarily intended to serve travel and college-level summer leagues. While the private facility may be available to other patrons, the schedule is already mostly filled, according to Riegle.

“Demand for the ballfield has been substantial. In fact, we are effectively fully committed with leagues and tournaments and so forth,” he told the planning commission, saying the facility will free up the county’s other fields for schools and community groups. Read More

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A conceptual rendering of redevelopment set to take place at the Huntington Metro station (image via Fairfax County)

Trees, steep hills, pedestrian paths, building heights, and townhomes were the most talked-about elements during last week’s discussion about the redevelopment of the Huntington Transit Station Area.

At the Oct. 19 Planning Commission meeting, commissioners and the public weighed in with their thoughts and concerns on the proposed revamp of the Huntington Transit Station Area (TSA).

The staff’s comprehensive plan amendment calls for mixed-use development including 382,000 square feet of office, retail, and community-use space, the possibility of a hotel with conference facilities, and 1,500 residential units. 15% of those units at “minimum” should be affordable, the report notes.

A bus rapid transit station is also being called for with a “large, publicly accessible civic plaza” above the station. Plus, more urban park space and “a network of high-quality pedestrian and bicycle paths” connecting to the transit stations and other amenities are also being recommended.

To make room for the redevelopment, it’s being asked that the northern parking garage be torn down.

While a decision was delayed until Nov. 16 on if to approve the comprehensive plan, a lengthy discussion ensued at last week’s meeting. The conversation included the commissioners, county staff, the Mount Vernon Site-Specific Plan Amendment (SSPA) Task Force, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), and the public.

The discussion focused prominently on the site’s challenging topography, the possible addition of townhomes on the northeastern side of the project, preserving a tree buffer, the potentially costly addition of one particular pedestrian path, and building heights.

There are a number of engineering challenges associated with the project mostly due to the Huntington Metro station being located on a steep hill.

“The most significant and defining feature of this site is the grade, from north to south. The highest point of the site is in the southern end on N. Kings Highway and it’s approximately 160 above sea level,” said Graham Owen from the county’s Dept. of Planning and Development. “In contrast, the lowest point of the site is on the northern portion along Huntington Ave and that’s at approximately 30 feet above sea level. So, there are about 130 feet of grade change along the site.”

This extra layer requires adaptation, both in terms of engineering and user experience, particularly when it comes to the building of roads, pedestrian pathways, and buildings.

“That is a hill like you’ve never seen…if you want to work out, run up and down North Kings Highway,” Franconia District Commissioner Dan Lagana noted with a laugh in midst of a discussion about how best to build paths for pedestrians.

A conceptual rendering of the southern portion of the redeveloped Huntington Metro station (via Fairfax County)

This challenge also relates to building height. If buildings on the southern end of the site are allowed to go up to the maximum allowable height of 200 feet, they could look a lot taller to those seeing the buildings from the north. This was a point of concern for several residents that spoke during the public hearing portion.

“I’d like them to really think about the height of a [200-foot] building. We can already see the parking garage over the tops of the trees,” said one resident. “If they are going to put something that’s two or three times taller than what’s already there, we will have a loss of complete privacy. I’m not opposed to development, but I don’t think that’s great development for people who have bought homes [there].”

Also, in the northeastern portion of the site, there’s currently a tract of trees that has become the subject of perhaps the most significant disagreement about the comprehensive plan.

The tract of trees near the intersection of Huntington Ave and Biscayne Drive acts as essentially a buffer between the townhomes along Biscayne Drive and the Metro station. It’s also where WMATA has proposed selling the land to a developer to build more townhomes.

Steven Segerlin, WMATA’s director of real estate and station area planning, noted that the major barriers to this project – at least from WMATA’s perspective – are financial.

“Based on initial estimates, construction costs… will be significantly greater than the revenue generated by the private developers that could possibly help pay for them,” he said.

Because of this, WMATA wants to sell the land where the trees are to developers for the building of townhomes. Both the staff report and the Mount Vernon SSPA Task Force proposed keeping the trees.

“Giving the high cost for public infrastructure needed to address the area’s lack of connectivity, the Huntington Metro site needs to generate as much revenue as possible to help pay for them,” said Segerlin. “The loss of the townhome development potential significantly reduces that revenue potential and will increase the gap funding request to the county, state, and federal government.”

He further noted that not only does Metro not have the funds to make up this gap, but the agency’s “policy does not allow it.”

Ellen Young of the Mount Vernon SSPA Task Force expressed surprise at this WMATA request. She noted, along with several residents and staff, how the trees are an important buffer between the homes already there and the Metro station. In addition, they are needed to help ease stormwater concerns in a part of the county that does have flooding.

“We had all agreed to the fact that the trees were going to stay there. And that agreement included WMATA,” said Young. “So, I think we were all caught a little off guard tonight.”

Also, a subject of concern from WMATA was a certain pedestrian path that would lead from the condo community Huntington Club to the southern portion of the development. The agency asked it not to be a “requirement” for the entire plan to move forward.

Between dealing with the steep hill and the need to potentially also build also through a grove of trees, the expense could end up being great noted Segerlin. Both staff and the task force appeared to agree that the one path was likely to be more difficult to develop and seemed open to moving forward without it.

Overall, there was considerable agreement on the goals of the comprehensive plan, which is to redevelop the area near the Huntington Metro station to make it denser, more accessible, safer, more inviting, and full of amenities available to the entire Huntington community.

“Development in this area will enhance the character of the community, increase patronage for existing local businesses and lead to reinvestment in the surrounding neighborhoods,” reads the staff report. “The area will become a place where county residents can live, work and shop without excessive dependence upon the automobile, thus realizing some of the county’s key policy objectives.”

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CRC’s MetroWest town center development plan (via CRC Companies/Fairfax County)

The Fairfax County Planning Commission will soon decide whether to remove a condition that could allow construction to start on the planned town center at MetroWest.

The proposed buildings would bring up to 900 residential units and retail amenities to the 56-acre community south of I-66 and the Vienna Metro Station.

According to an application submitted in January, developer CRC Companies asked the commission to remove a condition, also known as a proffer, that limits how much a housing developer can build without providing the 300,000 square feet of office space.

The original MetroWest plans were approved in 2006, and the proffer was put in place to guarantee different uses for the space. However, CRC has argued that the real estate market has changed since it was approved, making office space less viable.

The developer also said the proffer hinders the development of retail and open space for existing residents.

During the planning commission’s public hearing on the amendment last week (Oct. 20), McGuireWoods managing partner Gregory Riegle announced that construction on the first phase of the town center would begin soon.

“We are literally within weeks or months of starting to construct the first phase under the governing proffers and understanding that this has always been an important project,” Riegle said. He also briefly explained why developers are requesting a change to the existing proffer.

“The reasons for this change are perhaps self-evident, given well-documented realities about an objective oversupply of office space combined with decreasing demand,” he said.

Riegle noted that the amenities, size and scale, retail, and the required urban design would not change if the proffer were revised.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission deferred the final decision to its meeting tomorrow.

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The company has filed plans with the county for a new 42-seat restaurant (Photo via handout/Fairfax County Government).

County planners need more time to work through an application for a new Popeyes in Fair Lakes Shopping Center (13060 Fair Lakes Shopping Center).

At a meeting on Oct. 19, the Fairfax County Planning Commission voted unanimously to defer a decision on the application to Nov. 16.

Popeyes is seeking the county’s permission to build a 2,265-square-foot restaurant to the shopping center in space that was previously home to United Bank.

The motion was made with little to no discussion.

At-large member Timothy Sergeant said the decision would “allow more time for the applicant to improve their application.”

Since a fire broke out in the single-story bank in 2018, the site has remained undeveloped with pavement and some trees. The company plans to install a one-lane drive-thru at the 42-seat restaurant.

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The Tysons Mobil gas station on Chain Bridge Road was damaged by a tornado in March (staff photo by David Taube)

The Mobil gas station by Tysons Corner Center was looking to make some changes before it got hit by a tornado this spring, but the damage resulting from that storm added a new sense of urgency to the project.

When it meets tomorrow (Wednesday), the Fairfax County Planning Commission is poised to approve a renovation of the station at 1953 Chain Bridge Road that would replace the existing vehicle service bays with a convenience store.

The car wash and repair bays haven’t operated since a tornado briefly touched down in Tysons on March 31, damaging the Mobil and adjacent Sunoco gas stations, Wire Gill LLP partner David Gill told the commission at a public hearing last week.

“We are very eager to move forward on this so we can begin repairs on the building,” said Gill, who is representing PMG in the land-use case.

The renovation of the eight-pump gas station, which has been running since 1973, would add a convenience store sales floor, a 350-square-foot cooler vault and a 240-square-foot employee work room. The 2,585-square-foot building’s façade would be replaced.

While no new exterior construction or additions to the building have been proposed, PMG has agreed to realign the existing sidewalk on Chain Bridge Road (Route 123) and widen it from 4 to 6 feet, including in front of the Sunoco station up to International Drive.

A private road that connects the two gas stations will be closed off “to reduce vehicle conflicts and the possibility of collisions,” leaving the site with two entrances off of Chain Bridge and a rear service road to International Drive, the staff report says.

Gill said the closure will also give the site some additional open space that will be filled with trees and other landscaping.

However, the landscaping along Chain Bridge will be located between the property and sidewalk, rather than by the street, a deviation from Tysons’ design guidelines that Gill said will allow more trees to be planted and prevent visibility issues for drivers.

“Overall, this is an incremental change that reflects larger trends with the fueling station industry, where convenience stores are replacing service stations,” Kevin McMahan with the Department of Planning and Development said. “In staff’s opinion, the upgrades to the building’s architecture and streetscape improvements along Chain Bridge Road will be positive improvements to the area.”

The planning commission stopped short of approving PMG’s special exception request last week, because a development condition that would require the property owner to install two electric vehicle charging stations was still being finalized.

Staff had initially pushed for Level 3 chargers to be required, but the condition has been revised to less-intensive Level 2 chargers. Gill said the site doesn’t have the space to accommodate the infrastructure needed for Level 3s.

Who will be responsible for installing and operating the chargers hasn’t been determined yet, but Gill said PMG has partnered with providers to install stations at other sites in the past.

“We’ve figured out, if worst comes to worst, we’re in that game ourselves now if we put in these chargers,” he said.

Providence District Commissioner Phil Niedzielski-Eichner observed that the growing acceptance and use of electric vehicles presents a potential opportunity for convenience stores and other businesses that could serve drivers waiting for their cars to charge up.

He said the commission will “need to look thoughtfully at what expectations we have for future developments,” suggesting that they push for Level 3 stations at sites along I-495, I-66 and other major highways.

“The matter of electric vehicle charging is going to continue to come before us, and I think we’re getting more and more insight into what that really means for the future of vehicle use in Fairfax County,” Niedzielski-Eichner said.

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