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Redevelopment considered for Pan Am Shopping Center near Vienna

The owner of the Pan Am Shopping Center wants to overhaul the aging strip mall, potentially turning it into the latest effort to bring mixed-use development to the Vienna Metro station area.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed county staff yesterday (Tuesday) to evaluate a possible change to the comprehensive plan guidance for the shopping center at the southeast corner of Nutley Street and Route 29.

Property owner Federal Realty has expressed interest in working with the surrounding community on a redevelopment concept for Pan Am, according to Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik, who introduced the request for a review.

“This motion is intended to allow the planning process to be a platform for the property owner to work with staff and community stakeholders to consider how evolving the center to a more mixed-use environment could enhance the retail experience, ensure the long-term viability of the commercial center, and advance County objectives,” Palchik said in the board matter.

According to county land records, the Pan Am Shopping Center was built in 1979, and Federal Realty bought the 1 million square-foot parcel for over $21 million in 1993.

The center still boasts Safeway as an anchor, along with CVS, Microcenter, and Michael’s as major tenants, but it has seen a few notable departures over the past couple of years.

The former Baja Fresh space has been vacant since the restaurant closed in January 2019, and a standalone building that had been occupied by a Capital One bank and McDonald’s since the shopping center opened is now empty after the fast-food chain left earlier this year.

Most recently, the Chinese eatery Lo’s Restaurant closed permanently last week after switching to delivery-only service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While specific details likely won’t take shape for a while, Federal Realty says its goal with the redevelopment is to turn the Pan Am Shopping Center into “an amenitized and vibrant neighborhood.”

“We are constantly looking at ways to evolve our properties to best meet the needs of the communities that they serve,” Ramsey Meiser, Federal Realty’s senior vice president of development said. “Pan Am’s convenient location and close proximity to the Vienna Metro Station provides an opportunity to create an environment that  brings residential living to an already successful retail mix. We look forward to working with Supervisor Palchik, County staff and the community to make this vision a reality.”

Palchik says she expects any redevelopment to consider the area’s transportation capacity and potential impacts on existing neighborhoods, along with opportunities to provide more bicycle and pedestrian amenities and open space.

“Additionally the provision of housing would need to serve a variety of income levels,” she told Tysons Reporter by email. “It is my further expectation that the planning process will need to have robust community engagement.”

According to Palchik’s office, the comprehensive plan review doesn’t have a specific timeline yet, but Federal Realty is expected to begin the community engagement process before submitting a formal rezoning application.

The news of a possible Pan Am Shopping Center redevelopment comes as the Fairfax County Planning Commission is scheduled to vote tonight (Wednesday) on a proposal for five residential buildings with 35,000 square feet of commercial uses in the MetroWest neighborhood to the north.

If the plan is approved, developer Pulte Homes says it will finally be able to introduce retail around the Vienna Metro station, where attempts at mixed-use development have long floundered.

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