(Updated at 9:10 a.m. on 8/10/2022) The redevelopment of the former Fannie Mae campus in Reston is set to begin after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors gave the project its blessing on Tuesday (Aug. 2).
The board voted 9-1 to approve the redevelopment with a roughly 220,000-square-foot reduction in the amount of previously approved office space and the addition of a total of 74 townhouses and eight two-by-two units. (Correction: This article initially said the project was approved unanimously. Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith voted against approval.)
The approval comes despite county staff recommending that the project be denied because a portion of American Dream Way will be gated off to the pubic — a move intended to secure the former Fannie Mae building at the request of prospective tenants.
Developer Wheelock Capital and representative McGuireWoods touted the project for protecting and preserving sensitive environmental areas on the project, maintaining public access to the ponds, and a number of other issues that were addressed due to community concerns.
“We’ve respected and frankly enhanced the environmental area on this property,” said Scott Adams, the applicant’s representative. Adams said that the reduction in office space removes associated environmental impacts from development and the developer plans to maximize open space and not disturb the floodplain and wetlands area.
The Fairfax County Planning Commission unanimously approved the project in late June after grappling with the gate issue.
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said that the application came a long way from the initial proposal and that the development team was particularly response to the public’s concerns. Alcorn said that the issue of the gates was not a “basis for denial,” adding that a portion of the roadway is already gated off.
But others remain perturbed by the gates.
The North Shore Cluster Association Homeowners’ Association opposed the project, which they said encroaches on neighboring area.
The HOA’s president Michelle Silver questioned “why the planning commission went against the recommendation of its own staff.”
Board Chairman Jeff McKay said the issue of the gates alone, however concerning, was not enough to shut off the project.
“We’re now at a point that we’re down to one issue,” McKay said, adding that the project has “come a long way” and is “not perfect by any means.”
The development team hopes to sign a lease with a tenant that requires the security gates along a portion of the road way.
The redevelopment of the former Fannie Mae campus in Reston is still waiting to clear the docket of the Fairfax County Planning Commission.
At a meeting last night (Wednesday), lack of agreement on whether or not part of the nearly 9-acre townhouse project should have security gates led the group to defer a vote to June 22.
Instead of the two additional office buildings currently approved for the site at 11600 American Dream Way, the applicant is seeking the county’s permission to build up to 74 townhouses and eight two-over-two units. The existing 396,074-square-foot office building will remain on the site.
The deferral was hung up by a discussion on whether or not it was appropriate for the applicant to retain a gate along American Dream Way around the existing office building. This is the second deferral for the project, which was delayed by six weeks to work through a litany of issues.
Developer Wheelock Street Capital said discussions are underway with a prospective tenant that has a strong need for security gates around the road.
As a compromise, the county attempted to draft a proffer that would let the owner put in and take out gates, depending on the needs of future tenants.
But county staff and planning commissioners called that approach confusing for the area, particularly for residents of the townhomes whose access could be cut off sporadically.
“It’s coming and going and coming and going…There’s no consistency there,” said Mary Cortina, planning commissioner for the Braddock District.
Mary Ann Tsai of the Department of Planning and Development’s zoning evaluation division also said allowing the removal and reinstallation of the gates was contrary to the county’s vision for a mixed-use project in a transit area.
“We felt it was a very confusing situation,” Tsai said, particularly regarding getting in and out of the facility.
Ultimately, Wheelock agreed to drop the proffer and instead apply for a final development plan that could retain the gates, prompting the deferral to give staff the time to draft language for the revision.
Although the gates issue held up a vote on the project, Hunter Mill District Commissioner John Carter said the developer agreed to a number of changes to the project.
“The project has come a long ways over the years and especially since the initial application,” he said.
According to Carter, the changes include ensuring that residential units are not built inside the site’s ponds, that the site isn’t completely gated off, and that appropriate setbacks are put into place.
He noted that the plan now ensures that adequate setbacks are provided, public access is provided for ponds and trails, and the ponds are preserved with a joint maintenance agreement is in effect. Between eight to 10 units were shaved off of the project to accommodate the changes.
Community members concerned about the proposed redevelopment of the Fannie Mae campus in Reston have one overarching message: it’s just too much.
The site at 11710 Sunset Hills Road is already approved for three office buildings — only one of which has been built. But developer Wheelock Street Capital wants to add between 87 and 92 town houses on the central and western portions of the site. The town homes would be divided between four blocks and no additional offices will be built.
The proposal narrowly cleared the Reston Planning and Zoning Committee (RPZ) at a recent meeting. But a staff report from Feb. 24 recommends denying the application.
In an April 2 letter to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Alcorn and the RPZ, Reston Association’s Board of Directors, which represents more than 50,000 households, said the number of units is still too high.
That’s after RA voiced concerns with the developer that have since been addressed, including ensuring that American Dream Way remains public and revising the design to make the development more accessible for pedestrians.
Some concerns remain outstanding. The association says Wheelock wants RA to take charge of pond maintenance, a proposal that RA says has not been formally discussed between the two parties.
While the association believes residential use is a good choice for that area, it remains opposed to the application.
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said he has not yet made a decision on the project.
“As the Fannie Mae application works its way through the land use review process, I encourage interested residents to share their concerns and suggestions with Hunter Mill Planning Commissioner Carter and with my office,” Alcorn wrote in a statement to FFXnow. “If and when the application gets to the Board of Supervisors I will review the Planning Commission and staff recommendations, and all public input at that time before making a decision on the case.”
The proposal is currently under review. A public hearing before the Fairfax County Planning Commission is scheduled for April 27.