A decade after Springfield Mall was torn down, reemerging two years later as Springfield Town Center, Fairfax County officials are still trying to figure out how to make the reality of the development match that rebranding.
Progress on transforming downtown Springfield from a commercial hub into the more mixed-use, walkable environment envisioned by county planners has been slow, even nonexistent when it comes to housing, a recently released study found.
In fact, the area hasn’t added a single multifamily residential unit since the Springfield Crossing apartments were built in 2001, according to the Springfield-Franconia Market Study commissioned by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA).
“That’s insane,” Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk said. “Think about it for a second. Every market has had some sort of residential construction. We have had zero. So, that’s something that we have to obviously think about and figure out where we might allow more residential options…in the areas that make up the Franconia-Springfield market.”
Attributed at least in part to lower rents compared to areas like Tysons or Bethesda, the lack of housing isn’t the only challenge facing downtown Franconia-Springfield, which is concentrated around the I-95 and Old Keene Mill/Franconia Road interchange.
According to the study, which was conducted by the consultant HR&A, Springfield has 3.2 million square feet of retail development, 2.7 million square feet of office space, 978 multifamily units, 1,843 hotel rooms, and 0.3 million square feet of industrial space.
While the existing shopping centers, including the town center, are performing well overall, retail growth has slowed with just 22,000 square feet added since 2010, and vacancies have jumped to 6.4% during the pandemic.
Covid also drove up vacancies in the office market, where the rate climbed from 13% pre-pandemic to 19% as of early 2022, and sent hotel occupancy rates tumbling from 73.7% in 2019 to 28.4% in 2020 before bouncing back to 51% this year.
Aside from industrial construction, which has stalled since 1988, the study projects room for growth across all markets over the next 10 years, including 1,000 to 1,600 multifamily units, but mixed-use development is necessary to achieve that potential.
“There have been significant private investments in Springfield, most notably at Springfield Town Center and the TSA headquarters,” the report said. “However, growth has been focused on site-specific investments, not mixed-use development supportive of County goals or catalytic growth.”
Mixed-use development would require not only more housing, particularly mid-rise buildings less than eight stories tall, but also amenities and public infrastructure to draw residents, workers and the tourists that the study says are needed to offset declining business travel. Read More
A nearly 9-acre property near Lake Fairfax Park in Reston could be the sight of future infill residential development.
SEM Fairfax Land Associates is seeking Fairfax County’s blessing to build eight single-family homes on the property and preserve a 1790s building on the land, according to the Nov. 22 application.
The building known as the Fairfax Hunt Club — a 3,064-square-foot private avenue venue for up to 300 guests — will remain on the site alongside the original log house, which was built in the 1790s after it was relocated on the property from a farm in Vienna. The venue, which incorporated the log house, was affiliated with JR Custom Catering.
The property also includes a small cemetery that is roughly 14,106 square feet in size.
To move forward with the change, the county would need to approve the zoning from the Residential-Estate District to a more intense use — Planned Development Housing District, according to he application.
The community would be called Fairfax Hunt Estates. The applicants hopes to preserve the log house “in perpetuity” by imposing covenants on the lot that houses it.
“The Applicant will require preservation of the Log House by imposing covenants on Lot 3, which will ensure that it is maintained and preserved in perpetuity, without burdening the Fairfax County Park Authority with additional facilities to incorporate into their fiscal and administrative portfolio of various parks, historical sites, and recreational areas,” the application said.
A 5-foot-wide sidewalk along Lake Fairfax Drive is planned to complement the existing path along the east side of the road. The applicant also plans to extend the sidewalk from its southern property line along the Fairfax County Park Authority’s western frontage to the existing striped crosswalk at the entrance of Lake Fairfax Park.
The application has not yet been accepted for review by the county.
Photo via JR Catering/Facebook
A major redevelopment has been suggested for Fallfax Center, a retail strip anchored by El Tio Tex-Mex Grill on the edge of Idylwood near Jefferson District Park.
Schupp is asking Fairfax County to amend its comprehensive plan to allow multifamily residential uses and increased density on the 4.6-acre property at 7630 Lee Highway, one of 75 sites submitted to the county for a potential amendment in October.
“Leveraging its proximity to the bus/transit lines and depth/size of the subject property, this proposal will replace aging structures with attractive new development, that includes robust green space and modern stormwater management controls,” the developer said in a summary of its nomination.
The proposed 385,000-square-foot building would have 380 residential units with about 6,000 square feet of first-floor retail in a 6-story section facing Route 29 (Lee Highway). A section to the rear would start at five stories and drop to four next to the Lee Landing townhouses to the north and west of the property.
Both sections would have internal courtyards, according to a concept plan included with the nomination. They would be connected by a five-story residential structure with an internal parking garage and community swimming pool.
The development would “activate” Route 29 with a large adjacent patio and landscaped open space, and a “natural” buffer would be provided to separate the site from the adjacent townhomes, according to a statement of justification from Mark Viani, a land use agent representing Schupp.
“Collectively, these areas and the open space along Lee Highway, will greatly reduce the impervious nature of the Property and the proposed development will also include modern stormwater management controls,” Viani wrote.
Purchased by Schupp in 1989, the Fallfax shopping center dates back to 1955, per county land records, has evidently not been significantly renovated since it was constructed. The owner says the one-story buildings “are no longer efficient” and becoming “difficult to maintain.”
Current tenants include Settle Down Easy Brewing, Victor’s Grill, a Pizza Hut and Huqqa Lounge. The brewery could remain with the redevelopment, according to Viani.
The site also has two industrial buildings — Happy Tails dog day care and a vacant building once occupied by the commercial printer HBP — that are “an occasional source of concern” due to their proximity to the neighboring townhouses, the nomination says.
“The Nominator’s proposal will address Fairfax County’s need for housing and diversify the type of housing in the area,” Viani wrote, noting that a bus stop in front of the property provides access to Merrifield and the Dunn Loring Metro station.
The Fallfax redevelopment is one of dozens of proposals jockeying for inclusion in the county’s site-specific plan amendment program, which considers land use changes to the comprehensive plan for individual properties.
The process was revised this summer to have a shorter timeline, new submission criteria, and more frequent nominations countywide over two-year periods, as opposed to the previous four-year cycle that alternated between the north and south sides of the county.
The Board of Supervisors is expected to determine which site nominations to accept for review at its next meeting on Dec. 6. If the Fallfax proposal advances, Viani wrote that Schupp intends to file a rezoning application for review.
Photo via Google Maps
A single-family house in the Wolf Trap area could be razed and replaced with three smaller homes under a development plan filed earlier this month with Fairfax County.
Caliber Development is seeking to rezone the 1.14-acre site at the corner of Creek Crossing Road NE and Ridge Lane so it can be subdivided into three lots that will range from roughly 14,700 square feet to over 16,200 square feet in size, per the submitted plan.
The developer says that layout more closely matches the surrounding residential neighborhood than the existing 49,829-square-foot house did.
“The proposed application will facilitate a modest but high quality residential redevelopment in conformance with the [Fairfax County] Comprehensive Plan that will align with the density and development pattern of the surrounding subdivisions,” McGuireWoods land use planner Mike Van Atta wrote in a Nov. 10 statement of justification for the project.
Built in 1982, the house was sold by its former resident to a company called DB Creek Crossing LLC for over $1.3 million in March. Caliber then purchased it for $1.4 million on Oct. 7, according to Fairfax County property records.
Driveways for the new houses would be located on Ridge Lane, but the developer says it plans to provide 5-foot-wide sidewalks along both streets. The Creek Crossing sidewalk would come with a right-of-way dedication in place of an on-street bicycle lane.
“Construction of a bike lane at this time is not appropriate until a safe bicycle route is constructed along adjacent portions of Creek Crossing Road,” the application says.
According to Caliber, the redevelopment would reduce the lot’s impervious surfaces and exceed tree preservation and canopy requirements, with a commitment to planting native species. The plan shows a total of 29 trees with 5,600 square feet of canopy.
A site visit by the consultant TNT Environmental Inc. found several species designated as invasive or noxious in Virginia, including English ivy, porcelain berry, mimosa and Japanese honeysuckle, the plan says.
The application says invasive species will be removed by hand where possible “until the plants noted above are no longer in abundance or until bond release, whichever is later.”
The county hasn’t officially accepted the rezoning application for review yet.
A plan to turn the Vienna Courts offices into duplexes has been downsized again, as the developer and town leaders try to make the complex fit in without sacrificing its viability as an alternative multifamily housing option.
After initially proposing 15 two-floor buildings with one unit on each floor in September, BFR Construction President Steve Bukont agreed on Monday (Nov. 14) to drop a building and some guest parking so the development will occupy a little less of the 1.66-acre lot at 127-133 Park Street.
The project had already been reduced by one building before getting the Vienna Planning Commission’s approval on Sept. 28, so it will now have 12 buildings with 24 units.
However, Bukont told the Vienna Town Council that the smaller footprint means he can no longer guarantee that the residences will have solar panels, geothermal heating and other energy efficiency measures as previously offered.
“The green energy thing would be a goal. We couldn’t commit to doing it, but we would certainly make every attempt to do it,” he said. “Unfortunately…the cost of construction since we started discussing this project is up by double digits, and it doesn’t look like it’s going down.”
The developer confirmed that the project will still underground power lines along Park Street Northeast and install street lights similar to those on nearby Church Street, as stated in a Nov. 1 proffer agreement.
A lack of green space has been a sticking point for the Vienna Courts redevelopment from the start.
Intended to primarily serve older individuals and people with disabilities, the buildings will be small, with units topping out at 1,779 square feet. But the size and shape of the lot mean that most of it will be filled, raising fears about density on a site between Vienna’s commercial center and single-family residences.
“It doesn’t feel like we need density,” resident Brian Goldberg said at Monday’s public hearing, which was continued from Oct. 24. “Let Tysons have the density. Let Reston have the density. Let all these other areas that seem to have an appetite for going tall have it. Why do we need to do that in a residential area like we have?”
BFR Construction had requested a modification to let the development take up 70% of the lot, but the planning commision only approved 68%. Down to 13 buildings, the developer came to the town council this week seeking an allowance for 66.8%.
That still didn’t satisfy council members, who worried allowing that lot coverage could be a “slippery slope” in a town where only one development has exceeded 60% in the past 55 years, according to town staff. Read More
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.
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
Developer EYA came to the Vienna Town Council with a plan to turn a long-vacant commercial into a new set of townhomes, but the Town Council warned that it isn’t willing to give up on office and commercial development just yet.
Tysons Edge, an office building at 901 Follin Lane, has gone through attempts to lease since 2013 and has been vacant since 2015. The 97,000 square foot office building has had $2 million worth of renovations poured into the building with little progress in attracting a new occupant.
The proposal from EYA tearing down the building and converting the property into a 115-unit townhome development — scaled down from 165 originally planned for the site.
The project would come with some added amenities, like a new small park attached to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.
But when the project came forward for discussion at a Vienna Town Council meeting on Oct. 17, the Council was decidedly mixed on the prospect of replacing the office building an entirely new use.
Council member Howard Springsteen said the financial benefits of the project promised by EYA amount to roughly the cost of one police office — a “drop in the bucket” — and said the change required to allow the development was tantamount to spot zoning.
“I don’t think we have a responsibility to bail out a landowner who is losing money,” Springsteen said. “I’m sympathetic to demographics changing and maybe we revisit this, but right now it’s a bad idea and I can’t support this… We’ll have to do all this for a zoning change because your owner can’t make money.”
Council member Ray Brill expressed concerns about building a housing development with only one exit lane, saying it wasn’t a proper spot for a housing development.
A recurring argument from the council was that the change would essentially signal the town giving up on the idea of office development. Despite the dramatic downturn in the office market caused by the pandemic, the Vienna Town Council said they’re not ready to recognize defeat.
The Town Council wasn’t unanimous in their disapproval of the project, however. Council member Chuck Anderson said the Town will have to be more open to making zoning more flexible.
“I understand the argument for diversity [of use], but if diversity means hanging on to a rapidly depreciating suburban commercial property that has no use and that the market has not really grasped a use for, I think we need to relook at that and see if we need to, not do spot zoning, but move the boundaries,” Anderson said.
Mayor Linda Colbert ultimately told EYA that the Town Council — in the politest possible terms — was not particularly interested in approving the project.
“At this time, thank you, and I think in the future perhaps,” Colbert said, “but I think right now we’re not moving that forward.”
The developer behind The Boro in Tysons is rethinking its plans to build a residential high-rise on what’s currently a parking lot in front of the mixed-use neighborhood.
In an Oct. 17 proposal to Fairfax County, The Meridian Group seeks to turn an approved 310-foot-tall residential tower into a 304-foot-tall office building — an unexpected shift when high office vacancies and demand for more housing has most developers moving in the opposite direction, as the Washington Business Journal noted.
The application still maintains housing as an option for the tower at 8399 Westpark Drive, known in development plans as Building B1:
- Option 1: A 304-foot-tall office building with up to 420,000 square feet of office and 20,000 square feet of ground-floor retail
- Option 2: A 357-foot-tall residential building with up to 425 multifamily dwelling units and 20,000 square feet of ground-floor retail
“The proposed office option will provide the Applicant with additional flexibility to respond to market fluctuations in its ongoing efforts to attract tenants to the Boro and Tysons as a whole,” Walsh Colucci attorney Robert Brant wrote in a statement of justification for Meridian.
In either scenario, the building would be paired with another high-rise labeled Building B2, a 395-foot-tall residential building with up to 550 multifamily dwelling units and up to 12,000 square of ground-floor retail.
“By preserving residential options for both Buildings B1 and B2, the Applicant retains the ability to attract more residents to a rapidly growing and highly desirable area of Tysons in close proximity to major employers, retailers, Metro, urban parks, and other attractive amenities,” Brant wrote.
If Meridian opts for offices in Building B1, it estimates that the development would generate 4,925 vehicle trips per day and host about 1,400 employees, based on the county’s standard ratio of one employee per 300 square feet of office.
The developer says it’s committed to making 55% of all trips undertaken by Metro, bus or walking.
With the application, Meridian is also requesting that the parking garage for the towers be connected to The Loft, the retail and office condominium building directly to their rear along Boro Place that was completed in 2019.
The parking garage will consist of eight above-grade levels and two underground levels. The developer says the podium could either be built all at once — where interim, private amenities would be provided for residents on the top level — or with the eastern portion under Building B2 coming in first.
In the latter case, the garage would serve Building B2’s residents and retail, while the remaining land on the western part of the block is used as a surface parking lot until the second phase is built with Building B1.
When fully built, The Boro will have five blocks with approximately 5 million square feet of development, 1.7 million of which was delivered with its completed first phase.
A developer is considering the addition of 24 age-restricted cottages to an existing continuing care facility in Mantua.
The Virginian (9229 Arlington Blvd), a building built in 1980 that includes independent living units and assisted living, could see an addition of duplex units for people 55 and older, if Fairfax County approves the application submitted on Oct. 14.
The request would require rezoning the nearly 36-acre property from residential to planned continuing care to accommodate a broad range of senior housing.
Jennifer Garcia — a senior land use planner with DLA Piper, the applicant’s representative — said the rezoning would allow the the applicant “greater flexibility” to use beds and units for independent living, assisted living, memory care or skilled nursing.
“A logical next step to ensure the continued viability of the Property and to best serve County residents is to improve upon the mix of age-restricted housing stock, with additional flexibility to provide a continuum of care to better residents and families,” the application states.
No changes to the structure of the main building are proposed. The private equity firm Focus Healthcare Partners purchased the property in 2019 and has since invested $56 million into the facility, according to the application.
The developer anticipates “minimal impacts” on traffic, including 73 peak-hour a.m. and 108 peak-hour p.m. trips.
Applying under the affiliate name FFI Virginian Owner LLC, Focus Healthcare plans to provide $3 per square foot of new gross floor area for the county’s affordable housing fund. It’s unclear if some portion of the units will be designated as affordable.
So far, the applicant says it “anticipates and requests further discussions with staff regarding the equivalency between the provision of affordable units and the monetary contribution.”
A much-discussed senior living community is now open in Great Falls.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held last month to open the Residence at Colvin Run at 1131 Walker Road. In attendance were a few local officials, including Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust.
The 53,000-square-foot facility is being run by IntegraCare, which also operates a senior living facility in Hunters Woods on Colt Neck Road.
The one on Walker Road is on nearly three acres of land near the Colvin Run Mill historic site. It has 62 units in a mix of assisted living apartments and memory care residents for adults 65 and older.
Amenities include a fitness center, an art studio, a theater with an audio system that pairs with hearing aids, an aviary with finches, a rustic-inspired pub, and a trail connecting to neighborhood businesses. It will also bring more than 50 jobs to the community.
The facility fills a need for senior housing in Great Falls, where more than a third of the population is over 55 years old. Residents 65 and older make up about 14% of Fairfax County’s total population.
“In our experiences, we’ve found that seniors want to continue to live in the communities that they raised their families in,” IntegraCare CEO Larry Rouvelas said at the groundbreaking in April 2021. “The need to build senior housing communities in the specific neighborhoods that people grew up in is an important part of their quality of life.”
Foust has been a supporter of the project since the beginning. He told Reston Now last year that the current demand for senior living communities “far exceeds any supply that we’ve been able to create.”
Having grown up in Great Falls, Rouvelas said in the press release that the Residence at Colvin Run is a community that “will make the parents of my friends proud.”
“The parents of my friends here carpooled me and fed me at their dinner tables,” he said. “Decades later, when the opportunity arose to run a senior housing community in Great Falls, I jumped at the chance. We will run a community that will make the parents of my friends proud.”