The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved yesterday (Tuesday) plans to urbanize a Merrifield office park engulfed by I-495, Lee Hwy and Route 50.
The changes to the Merrifield Suburban Center will turn Fairview Park into a mixed-use development with more office space, multi-family homes, a hotel, retail and recreational uses.
Additionally, the changes urge developers to include affordable housing dwelling units or workforce dwelling units, along with senior living and student housing options.
The changes to the plan will also alter an area catty-corner to Fairview Park near the Inova Fairfax Hospital.
Fairview Park currently has offices — including the four-story-tall HIIT Contracting building — by a lake and residential communities. A tributary of Holmes Run runs along the southern edge of the area. Northrop Grumman Federal Credit Union and the 2941 restaurant are nearby.
“The justification for the nomination states that the existing single-use office park model that was successful in the 1980s is no longer competitive with mixed-use work environments that provide retail and service amenities, as well as the opportunity to live near work,” according to a staff report.
Elizabeth Baker, a senior land use planner for Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh, previously told the Planning Commission that only three of the eight previously planned office buildings have been built for Fairview Park, which had a 29% office vacancy rate last year.
Baker told the supervisors last night that Fairview Park’s offices were the “gold standard” in the 1980s. While the office park has been well maintained, she said that retaining tenants has been a struggle.
Charlie Hall, a Falls Church resident who chaired the task force that helped to evaluate the proposed changes, told the supervisors that the new vision “closely align with the task force’s recommendations.”
“Every major dispute has been resolved,” Hall said. “This is exactly what [the taskforce] wanted to come out of this.”
Hall urged the board to make an immediate commitment to improving the public sector in the nearby area to keep pace with the increased number of people from the upcoming urbanization, echoing concerns from residents worried about worsening traffic and housing congestion, along with added strain on overcrowded schools.
Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth said that it’s important to make sure that Merrifield — the center of Fairfax County — does not become a “congestion center” that will hurt not only locals, but also people traveling through that area.
The board approved the proposal, along with five follow-on motions from the Planning Commission, which include:
- conducting a multi-modal transportation study
- conducting a study of the connectivity barriers created by I-495
- working with property owners to reduce single-occupancy car trips
- working with Fairfax County Public Schools staff to determine school capacity needs
- developing a funding plan for transportation projects recommended in the Merrifield Suburban Center Comprehensive Plan
“Merrifield has been a success and the idea here was to keep the success going,” Smith said.
Image via Fairfax County, map via Google Maps