Proposed condos in office park fit vision for downtown McLean, planning commission says

A condominium building could replace some of the McLean Professional Park’s offices (via MV&A/Fairfax County)

A proposal to replace some office buildings in McLean Professional Park with condominiums won a unanimous recommendation from the Fairfax County Planning Commission on March 20.

During the public hearing, Dranesville District Commissioner John Ulfelder lauded property owner T&M McLean Venture’s partial redevelopment plan as “a great opportunity” that will further the county’s efforts to rejuvenate downtown McLean.

“Overall…this proposal is quite consistent with part of what we were trying to accomplish when we revised the comprehensive plan for McLean, or the [Community Business Center] portion,” Ulfelder said, “which was to bring in more residents, and so on and make this a more 24/7 place with opportunities for residential and commercial [activity].”

Adjacent to Sunrise of McLean Village, a senior living community that opened last spring, McLean Professional Park was built in 1980 and currently consists of 12 townhouse-style office buildings, all topping out at two or three stories tall.

T&M is seeking to replace six of those buildings with a five-story, 104-unit multi-family condo building, which requires rezoning 2.8 acres of the 4.4-acre site at 1477 Chain Bridge Road from a commercial district to a planned residential mixed-use (PRM) district.

The 235,000-square-foot, 68-foot-tall building will feature an underground parking garage with 192 spaces, along with 13 surface spaces. A 12,970-square-foot, publicly accessible corner park will add an open lawn, walking paths, shade structures and landscaping along Chain Bridge Road, and residents will have access to a private courtyard with a multi-use lawn, grilling and seating areas, and firepits.

The developer has also offered to construct a 12-foot-wide shared-use path on Chain Bridge, complemented by street trees, bicycle racks and cafe tables.

“It’s really going to be a pleasant environment for pedestrians who are walking along the street, but [it] also serves as a respite area,” Lynne Strobel, the applicant’s representative, said. “If people are walking, they could stop here, you know, sit down for a few minutes, or if they’re biking, they can stop, they can fix their bike.”

T&M also worked with Sunrise to improve their shared access point off of Chain Bridge, which “was identified as kind of an issue today,” Strobel told the commission. A traffic study found that the shift to a mix of residential and office uses will reduce trips to the site, since residents and workers will likely travel at different times of the day.

However, one resident opined in the public hearing that “McLean is becoming a European city” without the infrastructure to support the incoming development. She said it already takes her an hour to drive across McLean and questioned whether the ongoing crowding at local schools was considered.

According to county planner Daniel Creed, the condos will add six elementary school students. The Fairfax County School Board approved boundary changes last fall that are projected to reduce crowding at Kent Gardens Elementary School, which is facing the biggest challenges.

Commissioners observed that the area’s existing traffic issues are driven in part by construction to extend the I-495 toll lanes, a project that began in 2022 and isn’t set to wrap up until 2026.

“Every single side street, Balls Hill [Road], [Route] 123, everything is clogged,” Braddock District Commissioner Mary Cortina said. “So, I think that is a bigger issue. It’s not just that there’s more residential [development]. We have a bigger matter going on, and the whole region is snarled up right now until this is done.”

Ulfelder added that “we’ll have to see what happens” when construction finishes — and if Maryland gets around to replacing the American Legion Bridge and adding express lanes on its side of the Capital Beltway.

“I’m not going to hold my breath, though,” he said.

The condos at McLean Professional Park are envisioned more as an option for “empty nesters” and other McLean or Great Falls residents looking to downsize than for families, according to Strobel.

The units will mostly have two bedrooms and a “somewhat larger” square footage than the market average. Twelve workforce dwelling units (WDUs) will be provided, meeting the county’s standard of 12% of the total units.

When asked how the property owner will avoid pricing out WDU residents when it inevitably raises its the condo fees, Strobel said T&M might make those units slightly smaller than their market-rate counterparts and charge fees on a “per-square-foot basis.” She stressed that the WDUs will still be “good-sized units.”

With the planning commission’s endorsement in hand, T&M’s application will now go to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for a public hearing on May 7.

Read more on FFXnow…

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