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McLean apartment building proposes turning retail space into additional housing

The Ashby at McLean (via Google Maps)

After lying dormant for more than half a decade, a plan to convert retail space in a McLean apartment building into more residences has gained new life.

Located at 1350 Beverly Road, The Ashby at McLean sits in the heart of the Community Business Center (CBC), and like the downtown area as a whole, it has been struggling to attract viable commercial tenants, property owner WashREIT says in a statement of justification submitted to Fairfax County in June.

As a result, WashREIT is now looking to rezone the property so that it can convert the majority of its commercial space — 23,855 out of 28,067 square feet — into 18 new, multifamily residential units.

“These applications request a simple conversion of underperforming commercial space to usable residential units, revitalizing this property without any significant impacts to the area,” WashREIT said in the statement.

Constructed in 1982, The Ashby is 12 stories tall and has 256 residential units. It also has retail and office space on its first and second floors, including The UPS Store, a beauty salon, and two computer consulting stores.

Those tenants all appear to be located on the building’s first floor. The conversion will involve “significantly underperforming commercial space” on the second floor, the application says.

WashREIT, which acquired the apartment building in 1996, first proposed converting the office space to residences on Oct. 5, 2012, according to Fairfax County’s zoning records.

However, the rezoning request languished in the county’s zoning process, and on Aug. 29, 2019, the Department of Planning and Development notified McGuireWoods — the law firm representing WashREIT — that staff intended to dismiss the application because it had been inactive since Sept. 18, 2014.

McGuireWoods Senior Land Use Planner Lori Greenlief responded in October 2019 with a request that the county keep the application active, as the property owner was awaiting the outcome of the then-ongoing McLean CBC Study.

“Washington REIT has been following the study closely and, in fact, has two representatives on the task force,” Greenlief wrote.

Now that the county’s plan to revitalize downtown McLean has been approved, WashREIT has evidently decided that it’s time to revive its plan for The Ashby.

McGuireWoods requested that the rezoning application be reactivated and submitted revised materials on June 23 — one day after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to adopt the comprehensive plan amendment that came out of the CBC study.

While no physical changes to the site are being proposed, the reduction in retail will shift all but 19 of the building’s 331 parking spaces to residential uses, which will go from 210 spaces for 256 units to 312 spaces for 274 units, improving existing conditions, according to WashREIT.

A parking reduction study by the consulting firm Gorove Slade found that the existing parking supply exceeds demand, and nearby Metro and Fairfax Connector bus stops justify continuing to provide fewer spaces than what the county’s zoning ordinance requires.

“A parking reduction would not adversely affect the surrounding areas,” the study said.

WashREIT’s proposal is scheduled to go before the Fairfax County Planning Commission on Jan. 26, followed by a Board of Supervisors public hearing on Feb. 8.

Photo via Google Maps

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