Tysons, VA

The Falls Plaza Shopping Center in Falls Church is about to get a new look.

Property owner Federal Realty Investment Trust announced today (Thursday) that the 144,000 square-foot shopping center will undergo renovations intended to update its physical appearance and enhance amenities next year.

“Federal is a long-term holder of real estate and has been part of the Falls Church community for over 50 years,” Federal Realty Vice President of Asset Management Deirdre M. Johnson said. “The new amenities and conveniences coming to Falls Plaza…reflect the evolving needs of the community that we serve.”

Scheduled to start in the spring of 2021 and conclude prior to Thanksgiving, the redesign will include new building façades that fuse “a modern farmhouse design with industrial elements” as well as new decorative lighting and signage, according to a Federal Realty press release.

The project will also introduce parking spaces for curbside pick-ups, expand the sidewalks with outdoor dining and gathering space, augment the plaza’s landscaping, and add a fireplace.

Federal Realty first acquired ownership of Falls Plaza in 1967. Anchored by Giant Food, the center features a Staples, Conte’s Bike Shop, CVS Pharmacy, Starbucks, and a variety of other retail, dining, and services venues.

Most recently, Falls Plaza added the restaurants Plaka Grill, Tasty Dumplings, and Jersey Mike’s.

“We are appreciative of the continued support that both the city residents and officials have provided us over the past 50 years, and we look forward to the next 50,” Johnson said.

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The mixed-use development that Elm Street Development has envisioned for the Dunn Loring Center remains on track for realization.

In a report released on Nov. 18, Fairfax County staff recommends that the county planning commission approve the developer’s application to rezone the two-acre site at 2722 Merrilee Drive for planned residential mixed-use zoning.

Located less than half a mile from the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station, 2722 Merrilee Drive is currently occupied by a three-story office building that was originally constructed in 1984. The site is zoned for an I-4 medium intensity industrial district.

Under the name Merrilee Ventures L.C., Elm Street Development first submitted a proposal for turning Dunn Loring Center into a mixed-use development to Fairfax County on Dec. 9. The application was accepted on Mar. 5.

The developer proposes transforming the existing office building into a seven-story, 85-foot building with 239 multifamily residential units across five floors.

The bottom two floors will consist of an above-grade parking structure with 294 parking spaces – 264 for residential use and 30 for retail use – as well as two loading spaces, a trash enclosure, and a bike storage room, according to the Fairfax County staff report.

Amenities proposed for the development include an expanded streetscape along Merrilee Drive, a retail plaza adjacent to the nearby mixed-use apartment building Halstead Square, public open and park spaces, a dog park for residents in the building’s northwest corner, and other private indoor and outdoor spaces for residents, such as a pool, grilling stations, and a fitness center.

The project will occupy 235,235 square feet total with a floor area ratio of 2.70.

“The proposed development would contribute to the revitalization and development of the Merrifield Suburban Center and Transit Station Area through the provision of high-quality design and pedestrian facilities that are appropriate to the ‘Main Street’ designation of Merrilee Drive,” county planning staff say in their report.

In addition to seeking to rezone the site, Elm Street has asked Fairfax County to approve the proposed reduction of 18% of the property’s existing parking.

“Fewer parking spaces than would be required in the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance will be necessary to accommodate future on-site parking demand because of the site’s proximity to the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro Station,” the engineering consultant Gorove Slade says in a parking reduction study prepared on May 19. “A parking reduction would not adversely affect the surrounding areas.”

Elm Street says on-street parking will be provided on Merrilee Drive and on a proposed private street that could eventually be extended to connect Merrilee with Dorr Avenue to the west.

Fairfax County staff say the planning commission should approve the parking reduction request “based on the proximity of the development to mass transit facilities.”

According to the report, Elm Street has committed to making 16.6% of the residential units in the new development workforce dwelling units. A third of those units will be priced at 80% of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area’s area median income, a third will be at the AMI, and the last third will be at 120% of the AMI.

Since the existing property has few existing trees, the developer has proposed adding about 8,962 square feet of tree canopy coverage, which Fairfax County staff says would exceed the county’s comprehensive plan requirements.

In another proffer, Elm Street has said it will contribute $12,262 to Fairfax County for each of the 27 new students that the Dunn Loring Center development is expected to add to the public school system. Children who live in the development will attend Shrevewood Elementary, Kilmer Middle, and Marshall High Schools.

The full staff report for the Merrilee proposal can be found through Fairfax County’s land development system.

A Fairfax County Planning Commission public hearing on the Merrilee application has been set for 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 2, and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing on Jan. 26, 2021 at 3:30 p.m.

Photo courtesy Elm Street Development

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Slowly but surely, the controversial Broad and Washington project in Falls Church is moving forward with only minor concerns from reviewing officials.

The Falls Church Planning Commission met with the Architectural Advisory Board last night for a joint work session to discuss the upcoming project — but while public concerns remain about parking and scale, the groups offered more praise than criticism of the project.

Staff noted in a presentation that the project had gone through significant changes to offer better open space and better use of street access. The project is also perhaps most notable as the planned home of a new Whole Foods and a permanent home for local performing and visual arts group Creative Cauldron.

Members of the Planning Commission and Architectural Advisory Board were mostly satisfied with changes that scaled the building better with the surrounding area. Chair of the Architectural Advisory Board noted that one side of the building facing Broad Street still had the unfortunate “slab” look of the earlier designs.

James Way, chair of the Architectural Advisory Board, also said the roadside public square planned in the project could have been better but he said he was also happy with what the city would get.

“Like the square,” Way said. “I always like to see more space but I understand financial constraints. I worry about spaces being too taken up with hard set features. [There] might be something to make it more flexible and adaptable to actual uses.”

The project is scheduled to come back to the city government on Wednesday, Nov. 18 for a vote.

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Developer KETTLER announced the day before Halloween that it has broken ground on the next stage of an ambitious development plan called The Mile.

The Mile is an approved project that will transform a 45-acre area of underutilized space northwest of Tysons Galleria. Brentford, the second phase of the development, will be a 411-unit mid-rise apartment community advertised as being in walking distance from major employers, world-class shopping, restaurants, and entertainment.

“As a business operator in Tysons, our company has felt the positive impact that redevelopments have had on our community,” KETTLER President Cynthia Fisher said. “We’re thrilled to be leading this transformational project in partnership with PS Business Parks as we begin construction on Brentford at The Mile.”

In a press release, KETTLER states that the Brentford apartments will offer “stylish, nature-inspired floor plans, with highly amenitized interior spaces and larger units such as 3 bedroom apartments and 2-story townhomes.”

With its first units expected to be completed in spring 2022, Brentford will be located near Highgate at the Mile, an apartment building with Republik Coffee Bar on the ground floor (7915 Jones Branch Drive) that represented the first part of KETTLER’s plan for The Mile.

During the project’s approval process, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors praised The Mile for featuring a natural, 10-acre green space around Brentford and Highgate at The Mile. The first stage of the plans includes a publicly accessible dog park at the location.

“Residents of The Mile will feel the ease of suburban living, just minutes from the ‘Bustling Boro’ and Tysons Corner Center,” KETTLER said.

Image via KETTLER

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After an earlier deferral and walking tour, a planned mixed use development dubbed the Broad & Washington Project is headed back to the Planning Commission tomorrow for a work session.

“Planning Commission is requested to hold a work session to discuss the Broad and Washington mixed-use development proposed at the intersection of East Broad and North Washington Streets on approximately 3.16 acres of land including the City Lot on Park Place,” staff said in a report.

The Planning Commission work session is scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday).

The proposed seven-story development would include 339 multifamily apartment units above a Whole Foods, theater, and other retail options.

The meeting is not planned to include a recommendation to the City Council, but will instead focus on discussion. The project has already stirred considerable controversy in the community, with a public comment page times longer than the staff report.

The public comment submitted in advance of the work session was almost unanimous opposition to the project. Much of the opposition was concern about the loss of parking for nearby local businesses, like the State Theater, during construction and concerns that the replacement spots in the new underground parking garage won’t be equivalent to what is lost.

According to Fred Bonner, a local resident:

I would like to urge you to not agree to sell the municipal parking lot as part of the Broad and Washington Streets project. I have been following the development of the project over the past few years and my impression is that most of the changes have been detrimental from the city’s perspective, primarily making it mostly residential. While there are still reasons to accept the overall project, I do not believe losing the municipal lot is necessary or good for the city. The developers offer to ‘replace’ the spots in their underground garage cannot be considered equivalent, and the loss of those spots during the construction and after will be devastating to Thompson’s, Clare and Dons and the State Theater.

Several other local residents argued that eliminating the lot would harm local establishments like Clare and Don’s.

The plan has already been through several updates that increased the shared public parking and dedicated residential parking at the site. A staff report noted that while there have been changes, concerns from local businesses remain for how changes to interim parking could affect customers during construction.

“65 offsite parking spaces are provided at 107 and 111 Park Place, within 800 Feet of City Lot, while public parking is unavailable onsite during construction,” the staff report said. “The previously proposed 6 to 8 months period of offsite parking was reduced to 3 to 6 months; in terms of adjacent business support, the latest comments received from Thompson Italian and Clare & Don’s detail concerns they have about how the project, particularly the construction period, will adversely impact their business.”

Image via City of Falls Church

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Construction has finished on new condo complex The Bexley Condominiums (1761 Old Meadow Road) in Tysons.

Developer NVHomes said on the website that move-ins at the project started in September, with virtual grand opening celebration scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 10.

The development is located along Old Meadow Road, just sound of the McLean Metro station and Capital One headquarters. The road in front is being realigned to be better connected to the Capital One facilities. The project is part of a slate of new developments aimed at transforming Tysons East into a fully fledged community.

The condo units start at $679,990 with a two bedroom, two bath unit and $1,199,990 for three bedroom, two-and-a-half bath units.

“Elegant condominium flat in a walkable McLean location near Tysons,” NVHomes said on the website. “Generous list of included features, such as quartz countertops, LG appliances, and owner’s spa bath.”

Photo via NVA Condos/Twitter

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The Pulte Home Company is looking for special exception to transform a section of land near Odricks Corner, just north of Tysons, into a cluster of independent living homes.

“The Applicant has consolidated four (4) residentially zoned and developed parcels that may be transformed into a community that will be limited to persons 60 years of age and older,” a law firm representing Plute said. “As shown on the special exception plat submitted with this application, the Applicant proposes a total of 59 dwelling units consisting of 36 multi-family dwelling units in a single building; 14 single-family attached dwelling units; and 9 affordable dwelling units. The affordable dwelling units comprise 15% of the total number of units.”

The proposal includes both multi-family buildings and single-family attached dwelling units. The project is located just across Spring Hill Road from Sunrise of McLean.

“The proposed multi-family building will be four (4) stories of residential units served by elevators,” the report said. “The building will be constructed on top of a parking podium, which will include resident parking and trash collection… The multi-family building will be comprised of 32 two-bedroom units and 4 one-bedroom units. The one-bedroom units will be approximately 950 square feet and the two-bedroom unit will range in size from approximately 1,300 to 1,700 square feet. The single-family attached dwelling units are designed as villas with a first floor master bedroom that allows one floor living. Each unit will have approximately 2,600 square feet of living area and a two-car garage.

The project also includes affordable dwelling units that are stacked, multi-family units with designated parking and designed to allow residents to age in place.

The proposed development is scheduled to go to the Planning Commission on Wednesday, Oct. 14.

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It’s been a long and bumpy road, but the 26-story mixed-use building replacing J.R.’s Stockyards Inn finally has its long-sought Board of Supervisors approval.

Attorney John McGranahan acknowledged the new development had been a challenge to push forward.

“This was a challenging case,” McGranahan said. “The big issue was consolidation.

The project had faced pushback after staff argued earlier iterations of the project didn’t meet goals for promoting the Tysons street grid or public park space, but ultimately the plan was altered and a street grid implemented to staff’s satisfaction.

At the Board of Supervisors meeting earlier this week, both the applicant and supervisors expressed optimism about what the new development could bring to the area.

“The idea is that this would be that building would be the first redeveloped site in sub-area 5 of Tysons and would spark other neighbors to come in with their own development proposals,” McGranahan said. “We saw this as the first piece of a puzzle.”

Supervisor Watler Alcorn, representing the Hunter Mill District, expressed similar hopes.

 

“This is a really interesting step in Tysons in terms of how, potentially, smaller properties can come forward and help achieve the broader goals,” Alcorn said. “I want to compliment both the applicant and staff, this looks pretty good.”

Palchik called it a keystone development that will act as a catalyst for future development in the area near the Tysons Corner Center.

“It is nice to see, while we’re losing a nostalgic landmark for a lot of us, it is nice to see the evolution in Tysons and some of the original owners who have seen a lot of the changes around them happen [are] able to participate in that,” Chair Jeff McKay said.

Image via KGD Architecture

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Since 2015, the United Methodist Church and Montessori School of Cedar Lane has been trying to get inline with local zoning ordinances, and at a County Board meeting the Board of Supervisors granted another extension for the church and school to get their house in order.

The school was approved special exception in 2014, contingent on development conditions, but a staff report on the project said the school and church has been been out of conformance with the Zoning Ordinance.

“The application was approved with a requirement that a Non-Residential Use Permit (Non-RUP) be issued within 24 months of the approval date in order to establish the use,” staff said. “In addition, the development conditions mandated that certain improvements, including approval of a minor site plan (MSP) with parking lot and stormwater improvements, enhanced landscaping, removal of certain gravel surfaces, improvements to the parking lot and recordation of a reservation for future right of way dedication, be satisfied prior to issuance of the Non-RUP.”

An extension was first granted in mid-2016 for 12 months, which was eventually extended to July 2020.

A representative of the church and school said the organization is not experienced in handling development issues, which has resulted in delays.

“The applicant has been working to fulfill all development conditions associated with SE 2013-PR-021,” staff said. Ms. [Lynne] Strobel states that the applicant is a non-profit and inexperienced in the process of obtaining permits and approvals associated with zoning and land use. As a result, the implementation of the approval has taken longer than anticipated.”

Strobel told staff the applicant is working with a civil engineer to get the improvements done as quickly as possible, though the pandemic created additional financial challenges due to the school’s closure. However, staff said the applicant reported that it plans to commence the required work within the next year.

The school was approved for 18 additional months to get the needed work done.

Image via Google Maps

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After years of delays, arguments and a little arson: Vienna Market at the former Marco Polo restaurant site (245 Maple Avenue) is coming back for review at tonight’s Vienna Board of Architectural Review (BAR) meeting.

The project is a mixed-use development planned to include 44 luxury condominium townhomes and 8,200 square feet of retail.

The designs for the project were approved last September, but Northfield Development and NV Homes are headed back to the BAR after a few errors in the design process came to light.

According to a memo from the Town of Vienna:

  • During the permitting phase of the project, several front façade configurations were shown reversed from the original approved elevation drawings. The facades were modified to match the interior floor plans. The floor plans shown in the original drawings would require stairwells on exterior walls;
  • The final site plan review process revealed an error in the 35′ height calculation on the rear of the parcel that required reducing the height of two additional town homes and removing the roof access structure on one townhome
  • An error in the original rendering showed the end elevations on Church Street in the incorrect lot order. The Church Street elevation schemes have been adjusted to match the front elevation scheme proposed.

Town Code states that any changes to the approved design, even fixing errors, has to be approved.

Rendering via Northfield Construction and Development

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