County board OKs Tysons office-to-housing conversion but calls for more EV parking

The office building at 8221 Old Courthouse Road in Tysons will be converted into apartments (via Walter L. Phillips Inc./Fairfax County)

Another Tysons office building is set to be transformed into housing.

After a public hearing on Tuesday (March 19), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a proposal to convert the three-story office building at 8221 Old Courthouse Road into 55 multi-family apartments, including six workforce dwelling units.

About 70% of the apartments will have one bedroom, but some two-bedroom units will also be provided, according to Walsh Colucci Lubeley & Walsh land use attorney Robert Brant, who represented the property owner and developer, a Dittmar Company affiliate, at the hearing.

While the existing 45,000-square-foot building will stay intact, the development will bring pedestrian and streetscape improvements to Old Courthouse and Lord Fairfax roads, including new sidewalks, landscaping and crosswalks at the intersection.

The plan replaces about 90 parking spaces with open space, including a publicly accessible, 7,840-square-foot pocket park and a private, 8,400-square-foot outdoor space for residents. Amenities available to the public will include 6-foot-wide walkways, pergolas, benches and bicycle racks, while the private space will provide movable seating, tables, grill stations and stormwater facilities, such as a rain garden.

“We were very focused on the green space, and I believe the homeowners or renters would want that as well,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said of the county’s negotiations with the developer.

However, the trade-off of parking spots for green space has left some area residents concerned that traffic for the new apartments will spill into their neighborhoods and disrupt travel to and from nearby Freedom Hill Elementary School.

Dittmar agreed to retain 66 spaces in the existing parking lot and add striping for eight spaces on Lord Fairfax Road, meeting the county’s minimum requirement.

One homeowner’s association sent a letter to the board on Feb. 21 worrying that the apartment residents will compete for parking currently used by parents when dropping off and picking up their kids, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said.

At the public hearing, one resident whose daughter walks to Freedom Hill said she’s concerned about increased traffic and safety at the Old Courthouse/Lord Fairfax intersection. Claudia Stein, who lives on Lord Fairfax Road across from the site, urged the developer to keep at least 30 more parking spaces.

“There is always more demand for parking than anticipated,” Stein said. “The apartment residents and guests will be forced to park on the street in the neighborhood, which will take away parking from existing residents.”

Residents have also been advocating for the county to close a gap in the sidewalk on the west side of Lord Fairfax Road, Stein said. As a temporary measure, the gap has been filled with gravel, but vehicles sometimes park on the gravel, forcing students and other pedestrians into the road.

After confirming the location of the sidewalk gap, supervisors said they can’t compel the developer to address it, since it’s not on their property. Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik confirmed that her office will work with Stein to see what can be done by the county.

“It just seems like a great opportunity for our [department of transportation] to work with the property owner to maybe make an improvement in the future,” McKay said.

In response to the concerns about traffic, Brant told the board that shifting the property from office to housing will reduce parking demand and vehicle trips, which are projected to drop by 75% during the morning rush hour and 77% in the evening rush hour.

For some supervisors, the big sticking point was the developer’s commitment to only meeting the county’s minimum — 2% of parking spaces — for electric vehicle charging stations. That amounts to just two of the 66 provided spaces.

“I literally got sent an article yesterday about how electric vehicles and gas-powered cars are starting to level out in cost,” Dranesville District Supervisor Jimmy Bierman said. “If you want this building to be good for residents 10 years down the line, you’re going to need more than 1.32 spaces, so please provide more.”

McKay suggested that the developer consider pre-wiring some spaces so they can support EV chargers “in the future if the demand is there.”

Dittmar is “willing” to look at providing more EV charging stations, Brant said.

“We’ve had discussions internally about how more and more electric vehicles are on the road these days,” Brant told the board. “More residents want that as an amenity, so there’s a chance that, once we get into the construction phase of this, there will be an opportunity to add more. So, that’s something the applicant will consider.”

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