A path has been cleared for construction to begin soon on the long-awaited MetroWest town center, promising retail and pedestrian safety enhancements near the Vienna Metro station in Oakton.
As recommended by the planning commission in late October, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted last week to remove a limit on the number of residences allowed at the mixed-use development before work also starts on planned office buildings.
Occupying approximately 9.8 acres directly south of the Metro station, the future town center will bring up to 900 residential units, 300,000 square feet of office, and at least 55,000 square feet of retail to the 56-acre MetroWest development.
Developer CRC Companies said at the public hearing on Nov. 1 that the county is on the verge of approving site plans for the first two residential buildings, which will combine for more than 500 units and 12,000 to 15,000 square feet of retail space.
“To say that’s a long time coming is probably the biggest understatement of the afternoon, if you know the history and legacy of MetroWest at all,” McGuireWoods attorney Greg Riegle said, representing CRC at the hearing.
When originally approved in 2006, MetroWest was capped at 1,100 residential use permits (RUPs) until some construction is completed on one of the planned office buildings, but market changes have stalled the commercial portion of the project.
With 706 dwellings already built and 408 more units on the way from fellow developer Pulte Homes, CRC sought to have the condition removed so it can also deliver the town center’s third and final residential building — and the accompanying retail and open space that has failed to materialize.
“By continuing to develop the town center and round out the amenity package, that’s the best chance to make the office actually happen at MetroWest,” Riegle said.
As part of the updated development conditions, known as proffers, CRC will provide a 2-acre interim open space with an asphalt trail on Atlas Plaza “to create a walkway circuit,” according to a county staff report. The plaza will eventually be replaced by the third residential building.
The town center will have a permanent plaza between that residential building and the two office buildings, but CRC isn’t required to build it until the first RUP or occupancy permit is issued for the second of those buildings to be constructed.
The developer has also agreed to construct pedestrian safety improvements along Vaden Drive and at its intersection with Royal Victoria Drive, right in front of the Providence Community Center.
The proposed improvements will extend the existing concrete medians on Vaden Drive into the crosswalks, adding detectable warning strips and rapid flashing beacons, shown as yellow diamonds on the diagram above.
“There’s quite a bit of pedestrian, bike, family, dog activity, and improvement to that safety is definitely a priority for the community members, for the residents, and for my office,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said.
Though it’s unclear when construction on the town center will begin (CRC didn’t return an inquiry from FFXnow by press time), Palchik and other supervisors expressed hope that their vote will allow the county’s vision for a vibrant, mixed-use community at the Vienna Metro to finally come to fruition.
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn and Franconia Supervisor Rodney Lusk recalled discussing the MetroWest plan when they served on the planning commission back in 2006. The meeting lasted until 3:45 a.m., according to Alcorn.
“I appreciate where it’s come and see this as a very vital and necessary step for this development,” Lusk said.
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.
Fairfax County is currently reviewing a proposal that would clear the way for work to finally begin on the planned MetroWest town center near the Vienna Metro station.
Developer CRC Companies wants the county to revise its conditions for the mixed-use project on Saintsbury Drive so it can start construction on three residential buildings with ground-floor retail space, according to an application submitted on Jan. 28.
As presented at a community meeting in September, the proposed buildings — known as Buildings 6, 7, and 10 — would bring up to 900 residential units and retail amenities to the 9.8-acre site, which is part of the 56-acre MetroWest community that CRC is building jointly with Pulte Homes south of the Metro station and I-66.
However, a condition dating back to the county’s original approval of MetroWest in 2006 limits the amount of housing developers can build without also providing the 300,000 square feet of office space planned for the site.
Under the current development conditions, known as proffers, the county won’t issue more than 1,100 residential occupancy use permits (RUPs) until construction begins on the office space, which will be concentrated at the town center in buildings 8 and 9.
While the cap was intended to ensure a mix of uses in the community, CRC argues in its application that the real estate market has changed since the proffer was approved, making office less viable, so it is now preventing the delivery of retail, open space, and other amenities for existing residents.
“The additional residential and retail density could improve the demand for office in MetroWest,” McGuireWoods managing partner Gregory Riegle wrote in a statement of justification on CRC’s behalf.
The developer says it could construct the more than 500 residential units planned for buildings 6 and 10 without exceeding the 1,100 RUP limit, but it would hit that ceiling with building 7.
Pulte also got the county’s approval in January to construct five residential buildings of its own, totaling 480 units.
“[CRC] cannot obtain financing for its buildings if there is a risk that RUPs cannot be issued,” Riegle said. “Without financing, the Applicant cannot construct the third mixed use residential building in the Core Area (likely Building 7) until Buildings 8 and 9 begin construction.”
CRC filed a site plan with the county for buildings 6 and 10 in August 2021, but a land-use record indicates that it was disapproved on Oct. 29. The developer did not return FFXnow’s requests for comment.
The Fairfax County Planning Commission is currently scheduled to hold a public hearing on CRC’s proposal to remove the construction cap on July 20.