The Fairfax County Planning Commission officially gave its support to plans for a mixed-use development on Merrilee Drive in the Merrifield area last week, voting unanimously on Dec. 9 to recommend that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approve a rezoning application for the project.
Proposed by Elm Street Development under the name Merrilee Ventures, the project envisions replacing the existing three-story office building at 2722 Merrilee Drive with a seven-story, 85-foot-tall residential building with retail and recreational amenities.
The two-acre site is currently zoned for medium-intensity industrial uses. Elm Street submitted an application last December to have it rezoned for planned residential mixed-use development.
“This project represents the next exciting revitalization opportunity in Merrifield and continues the important process of realizing the comprehensive plan vision for this area by closing the development gap between the Dunn Loring Transit Station Area and the Mosaic District,” Providence District Planning Commissioner Phil Niezielski-Eichner said.
The commission’s vote came a week later than expected after it decided on Dec. 2 to defer a decision on Elm Street’s rezoning application due to concerns about the project’s inability to meet urban park space requirements.
The proposed development falls 0.45 acres short of the 0.63 acres of on-site publicly accessible park space that it is supposed to have under the Tysons Comprehensive Plan. To make up for that shortfall, Elm Street has committed to finding at least 0.45 acres of off-site park space or contributing $500,000 to the Fairfax County Park Authority so that it can purchase and develop future park resources in the Merrifield area.
After approving the rezoning application, the planning commission recommended to the Board of Supervisors that county staff “identify specific planning alternatives and potential new mechanisms to realize the implementation of the urban park vision set forth in the Merrifield Suburban Center Comprehensive Plan.”
McGuireWoods managing partner Greg Riegle, a representative for Elm Street, also addressed concerns about parking and stormwater management that were raised at the Dec. 2 public hearing.
While the Merrilee development will not solve existing drainage challenges by itself, it will be a clear improvement over the current site, which is almost entirely paved, Riegle said.
The Merrilee mixed-use project will have 294 parking spaces, including 264 for use by its 239 planned multi-family residential units and 30 for retail use. The developer is seeking to reduce the site’s existing parking by 18%, citing its proximity to the Merrifield-Dunn Loring Metro Station.
Riegle says Elm Street is working to ensure there is sufficient on-site parking to meet the development’s needs and prevent impacts on the surrounding community.
“I’d also note for the record that we are segregating retail parking, so [retail is] clearly divided with the residential,” Riegle said. “It’s not co-mingled to make sure it’s both convenient and there’s an adequate amount available, so hopefully, that’s responsive in the same vein of trying to move the situation collectively forward.”
A Board of Supervisors public hearing on the Merrilee project has been scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 26, 2021.
Photo courtesy Elm Street Development