Roughly 20 months after Vienna’s Wolf Trap Hotel and Tequila Grande were demolished, construction has yet to begin on the mixed-use development slated to replace them.
However, a chain-link fence surrounding the 2.8-acre site at the corner of Maple Avenue and Nutley Street has been removed, and some neatly trimmed bushes have been planted around the perimeter, suggesting the community shouldn’t expect to see construction crews any time soon.
Asked about the changes, Vienna Planning and Zoning Director David Levy told the town council on Monday (Oct. 23) that he, Town Attorney Steven Briglia and other staff members recently sent a “strongly worded letter” to developer Hekemian & Co., urging them to clean up the empty site.
“We’re all working together on trying to crack the nut on having that site be in better condition during the period when the developer’s waiting for the market conditions to improve to build,” Levy said. “Nobody’s been happy with the way it’s looked over time.”
According to Levy, the developer added some landscaping to the gravel site after the town’s public works and planning staff accompanied the site manager on a visit, but the removal of the fencing — which had started to lean over the existing plants and the sidewalk — came as a surprise.
Town staff is scheduled to meet next Monday (Oct. 30) with the site manager and Hekemian Senior Vice President of Acquisition and Development Chris Bell to discuss how to handle the property going forward, including the need to secure it to prevent safety and dumping issues.
“You can tell there are kind of holes in the middle of it. We don’t want anybody to get hurt on the site,” Levy told the council. “We want them to clean that up, leave it in a condition where it’s flat, landscaped and well-maintained…So, we’ve been on it constantly, but now it’s time to get it into a more long-term condition.”
The timeline for when construction on the project known as 444 Maple will actually commence remains up in the air.
When Tequila Grande was razed in February 2022, Bell told Tysons Reporter, FFXnow’s sister site, that construction could begin in late spring or early summer of that year. Bell and Hemekian didn’t return requests for comment by publication time.
According to Levy, the developer put the project on hold to wait out rising costs due to inflation, increased interest rates and other market conditions.
“A bunch of that has apparently improved, but they’re not ready to get started yet. [Bell] said if things look good at the beginning of next year, early 2024, they hope to get started,” Levy said, adding the caveat that Bell “told me the same thing a year ago.”
Approved in 2018, 444 Maple will be a four-story residential and retail center with 151 rental units and 20,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space. The pizza franchise Mellow Mushroom announced a year ago that it had an agreement to open a restaurant there.
During the rezoning process, the project divided the town council and Vienna residents between those concerned about its size and traffic impacts, and those who felt it would help revitalize the town’s main commercial corridor. The Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) zoning that opened the door for the development ultimately got repealed, setting the stage for a zoning code rewrite that the town council officially adopted on Monday.
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