Tysons Corner, VA

(Updated 10 a.m.) There’s no shortage of luxury housing coming into Tysons, but what about affordable housing?

According to Brian Worthy, a spokesman for Fairfax County, the limited number of affordable units in Tysons are near max occupancy. But with new mid- and high-rise developments required to devote a portion of the new units to affordable housing, Worthy said there are more units on the way:

As of May 15, 2019, there are approximately 536 rental Affordable and Workforce Dwelling Units (ADUs and WDUs) that have been constructed in Tysons. The average occupancy rate is 94 percent.

Currently, there are approximately 3,919 rental ADUs and WDUs that have been committed by developers through Board of Supervisors approved rezoning actions. We don’t currently track the total number of these units that have been proposed as part of unapproved developments in Tysons, but to date, the major, approved rezonings have all committed to provide affordable or workforce dwelling units.

Worthy noted that ADUs serve households with incomes of 50-70 percent of Area Median Income (AMI). Fairfax County documents show that range as $38,600-$54,050 for single-family households, increasing proportionally to the size of the household.

Tysons’ WDUs serve incomes ranging from 60-120 percent of AMI, reflecting the higher cost of living in Tysons as compared to the rest of Fairfax. The WDU program is designed to help working households find housing close to employment centers and transportation options.

Creating housing affordable to locals at all ranges of the income spectrum has been a countywide problem. According to the FY 2020 Fairfax County budget, a total of 3,016 affordable units — privately-owned homes that are not bound by rent restrictions — have been preserved in Fairfax County between 2004 and 2018, but the county fell 82 units short of its affordable housing goals for last year.

The county projects a growth of 62,184 households over the next 15 years, of which 18,622 are expected to earn 80 percent of AMI and below.

Chart via Fairfax County Government

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The showroom’s closet full of prop Gucci and Saks Fifth Avenue bags says just about everything you need to know about The Monarch — Tyson’s new mega-rich condominium building under construction.

Yesterday (Wednesday), developer Renaissance held a project launch celebration inside their ninth-floor office in the Ritz-Carlton (1650 Tysons Blvd) overlooking the site.

The office also doubles as a fully furnished model residence. Renaissance staff guided prospective residents through lavish bedrooms and kitchens, noting amenities like a direct-access elevator that opens right into the living room and white-glove lobby attendants who can carry groceries for residents.

The building offers a kind of opulence unfathomable to anyone making less than $100,000 a year. Units in The Monarch range from $600,000 to just over $3 million.

Kami Kraft, the vice president of The Mayhood Company, which is marketing the project, said the types of employment in Tysons and the proximity to Tysons Galleria were indicative to a need in the area for new luxury condominiums.

The building is currently under construction and is scheduled to open in late 2020.

The project is part of the Arbor Row development, a 19-acre stretch of mixed-use buildings along Westpark Drive. The first building of the project, the residential Nouvelle, was completed in 2015 and the next phase, the senior living facility The Mather, is going to the Fairfax County Planning Commission tonight.

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The Falls Church City Council recently voted to move forward a series of developments that would transform the area south of the West Falls Church Metro station into a new commercial center and gateway into the city.

The council unanimously approved the signing of a comprehensive agreement with EYA, PN Hoffman and Regency Centers for their planned development of nearly 10 acres at the George Mason High School, the Falls Church News-Press reported.

The current George Mason High School is set to be demolished and replaced with a new commercial area like the Mosaic District in Merrifield.

The approval of the comprehensive agreement now allows the Falls Church City Schools to solidify plans for the construction of a new high school next to the current one, the Falls Church News-Press noted.

The council decided to delay a final vote to July 8 on the specific exception entitlement after the development faced last-minute changes, which included removing the structured parking lot near the new high school and reverting back to a surface lot for school use, according to the Falls Church News-Press.

Rendering via City of Falls Church

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A moratorium on new development applications for Maple Avenue that was scheduled to expire in June has been pushed to November.

The Vienna Town Council voted on Monday (May 13) to extend the temporary suspension of the Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) zone to November 15.

The moratorium first went into effect last September to allow the town staff time to redesign the town’s guidelines.

Since then, the Planning Commission, the Board of Architectural Review and the Town Council have held individual and joint work sessions on draft design guidelines.

Additionally, the Town of Vienna also commissioned a Maple Avenue Corridor Multimodal Transportation and Land Use Study, which is expected to be received this summer and could be incorporated into the design guidelines.

Final design guidelines and amendments are anticipated to be done by September.

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The Vienna Town Council delayed voting on the proposed redevelopment of 380 Maple Avenue after a resident questioned if the town had notified Fairfax County about the proposed rezoning — the town hadn’t.

Resident John Pott asked during the public hearing last night (May 13) if the town had notified the county about the proposed rezoning since the property is within half of a mile from the county line. Pott said that the notification has to happen before the Vienna Planning Commission hearing.

Turns out, the town had not notified the county yet, Town Manager Mercury Payton said, adding that “this was an oversight on the part of staff.”

“This has not been a practice,” Payton said. “It was not intentionally inaction based on staff to not notify the county.”

“I’m a little bit dismayed we didn’t follow the law,” Councilmember Howard Springsteen said, telling town staff that “ignorance is no excuse.”

In addition to the legal conundrum, Springsteen urged the developer and residents to work together — possibly using a mediator — to try to find middle ground on the contentious issues around the proposed project, such as safety, privacy and scale. “I would like to see if we could get a mutual, agreeable resolution to things,” he said.

The proposed project has received mixed reviews from residents.

While some people have said at previous public hearings that the mixed-use, four-floor building, which would include ground floor retail and more than three dozen multi-family residential condominium units, could revitalize the downtown area, others have argued that traffic, safety and scale issues plague the project.

Dennis Rice, the owner of J.D.A. Custom Homes, appeared frustrated when relaying to the Town Council some of the back and forth changes he’s made to make the development more desirable to nearby residents. But, he reiterated he is willing to keep working with neighbors on the project.

Mayor Laurie DiRocco told Rice to submit a written list of proffers. While proffers have been written down and spoken about at meetings, DiRocco said that Rice needs to provide the town with a comprehensive and clear list.

Town Attorney Steve Briglia advised the council to keep the public hearing open while getting in touch with the county. The Town Council voted to continue consideration of the project at the June 3 Town Council meeting and directed staff to send a notification of the proposed rezoning to the county.

Photo via Town of Vienna Planning and Zoning

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Ten acres of vacant St. Paul’s Lutheran Church property at the intersection of Leesburg Pike and Idylwood Road could soon be redeveloped into a residential neighborhood.

A zoning application to the Fairfax County Board from developer Toll Mid-Atlantic LP Company requests permission to build 67 residential units — a mix of 39 single-family and 28 multi-family units.

St. Paul’s facilities at the site were built between 1954 and 1967, but have been vacant since Lutheran Social Services moved to the primary St. Paul’s building.

The church property sits at one corner of a busy intersection, requiring transportation improvements in the project application. Approval of the homes would require frontage improvements to Idylwood Road, a dedicated right-of-way along Leesburg Pike for a future right turn lane and a few other local road connections.

“Collectively, these road improvements will mitigate the impact of the vehicle trips generated by St. Paul’s and the Proposed Development, and will provide greater benefit than the previous commitments,” the developer said in the application. “The applicant proposes an eight-foot asphalt trail along Leesburg Pike, an eight-foot concrete sidewalk along Idylwood Road, and a bus shelter at the corner of Idylwood Road and Leesburg Pike.

The deal would allow St. Paul’s to finance a long-planned family life center. The facility would increase the overall size of the church from 17,196 square feet to 27,928 square feet.

According to the application:

The purpose of the approved expansion is to create a new family life center for use by the congregation and the community. Since the approval of the family life center… in 2005, however, St. Paul’s has been unable to construct the building due to financial constraints and the significant cost of the project. As a result, St. Paul’s has entered into an agreement with the Applicant to sell a portion of the property… which will provide the funding necessary for St. Paul’s to achieve its long-term goal of developing the family life center.

The project is tentatively planned for a Planning Commission hearing on Sept. 25, with a Board of Supervisors hearing to be determined.

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F45, an Australian-based high-intensity gym franchise, just signed a 10-year lease for The Boro development in Tysons.

The gym is set to open in the 2,310-square-foot second-level retail space at 1640 Boro Place, Suite 206, according to a press release.

F45 is targeting a late summer opening in The Boro — right around when many of the restaurants and retail plan to open in The Meridian Group’s development.

According to the press release:

F45 Tysons will offer fitness programs with more than 4,000 exercises changed daily; multi-screen LCD TVs displaying all exercises; heart rate technology for performance tracking; live DJ mixes and F45 FM music to keep members motivated; and a global support network of coaching professionals. The state-of-the-art fitness facility will include full locker rooms and showers.

The workout program combines interval, cardiovascular and strength training regimens into a rotating set of workouts.

“We are proud to welcome F45 Tysons to The Boro, and we are thrilled about the tremendous energy it will bring to the project,” Caroline Flax, the senior analyst for The Meridian Group, said in the press release.

Photo courtesy F45

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Updated at 11:30 a.m. on May 9 — The Planning Commission decided to defer the decision to May 16. A description of The Monarch was corrected. 

A proposed senior living facility in Tysons is headed to the Fairfax County Planning Commission for a vote tonight (May 8) that may result in a recommended denial.

Fairfax County planners took issue with the height, design and open space planned for the two-tower senior living complex called The Mather and have recommended denial of the application, the Washington Business Journal reported in late April.

According to the staff report in WBJ’s story:

Staff does not object to the concept of a continuing care facility as a use, and in fact, recognizes the services provided by such a facility are both necessary and desirable within Tysons. However, the continuing care facility has been designed in a way that reflects the unique needs of the applicant’s specific business model, and does not reflect the urban design recommendations of both the Comprehensive Plan and the Tysons Urban Design Guidelines.

The project includes 18- and 27-story tall towers with a podium connecting the towers on the lower levels and 300 independent living units, 78 assisted living units and 18,000 square feet of retail and restaurants on the lower floors.

The project is a part of Cityline Partners LLC’s Arbor Row project near Tysons Galleria, which includes the completed Nouvelle residential building and The Monarch, which is under construction. The development aims to transform the back end of Tysons Galleria along Westpark Drive into a suite of mixed-use buildings.

The proposal is scheduled for a decision at the Planning Commission’s meeting tonight.

Image via Fairfax County Planning Commission 

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Vienna residents had mixed reactions to the proposed redevelopment of 380 Maple Avenue at last night’s public hearing.

While some people said the mixed-use, four-floor building, which would include ground floor retail and 39 multi-family residential condominium units, could revitalize the downtown area, others argued that traffic, safety and scale issues warrant the Vienna Town Council delaying or rejecting the proposal.

Dennis Rice, the owner of J.D.A. Custom Homes, told the Town Council that the proposed project has gone from being called “the gold standard for what the MAC should look like” last fall to receiving a mix of feedback that has elicited many changes.

“We’ve had seven more work sessions and public hearings,” Rice said. “It’s been a very long and arduous process. We made more than 75 changes.”

Some of those changes included removing the fifth floor and green wall in the back, adding more trees to provide extra screening for the nearby neighbors, reducing the number of residential units and changing the color scheme from brighter to softer colors. “We were referred to as the Lego building,” he said.

Testimony during the more than three-hour-long public hearing on the proposed rezoning ranged from residents who said the redevelopment will help Vienna’s ghost town appearance to arguments that the plan’s flaws outweigh the need to replace the site’s unattractive three-story office building that was built in 1970.

“I think this is a good change,” Tammy Moore, a resident, said. “It’s something different.” Moore said, adding that the units may attract both younger people and also older residents looking to downsize.

The proposal’s retail space received some support from residents who said the spots are an opportunity to attract local businesses instead of big box chains dotting Maple Avenue’s strip malls.

“To pass up a chance like this would seem to me to be a serious mistake by the town,” Nat White, a resident, told the council.

Some residents, like Anna Benson, took issue with the project’s scale.

“This project is a great idea, but it’s too big,” Benson said, adding that she asked a fifth grader to build the Town of Vienna as the developer envisions it with Legos.

“He said to me, ‘It’s going to be too big. We can’t fit everybody,'” she said. “My question to you is, ‘Are we smarter than a fifth grader?'”

Resident John Pott said the closeness of the development to people’s homes and nearly three dozen windows lead will invade current residents’ privacy. “It’s right in our face — a massive, balconied structure,” he said.

While a Transportation Impact Analysis found that the development will cause minimal traffic in the area and that the intersection does not need a traffic signal, several residents said the development will add to already bad traffic congestion in the area. Opponents also said that the placement of the loading dock access from Wade Hampton Drive could lead to safety issues for pedestrians and drivers.

“This is not only a public safety issue, it makes no logical sense,” Steve Potter, a resident, said, urging for relocation of the loading dock. “Loading docks do not belong on public streets or next to public sidewalks or access ways for handicap people. It’s an accident waiting to happen.”

Residents in support of the project said minor tweaks could address the issues raised and shouldn’t stop the Town Council from approving the rezoning proposal.

“[The developers] are really trying and I think this is one of projects where we have to support the developers and the good-heartedness of it and their wanting to make the town a better town,” Friderike Butler, a resident, said. “380 looks really beautiful and I know there are still kinks that need to get worked out – security hazards, safety hazards are uncertainly of concern and need to be addressed, but they don’t sound like would they be reason enough to vote this project down.”

The Vienna Town Council decided to leave the public hearing open until May 13 and directed the staff and applicant to provide responses to questions brought up and also possible solutions to the council.

“I just think in the interest of open government and to try to be as fair as possible by leaving the public hearing open, it shows we’ve gone the extra half mile,” Councilmember Howard Springsteen said.

Photo via Town of Vienna Planning and Zoning

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As Tysons grows, Fairfax County officials say the plan is for the small Raglan Road Park between Tysons and Vienna to be repurposed into “active recreation uses.”

Currently, Fairfax County Park Authority owns 11.82 acres of Raglan Road Park, a forested area adjacent to the Old Courthouse Spring Branch Stream Valley. The area recently saw some construction with the opening of the new Vesper Trail, but more amenities could be on the way.

David Bowden, director of the Park Planning and Development Division, said the park is one of the only properties the Park Authority owned prior to the widespread redevelopment of Tysons.

“Expansion of that park property is an area identified as [a priority] to support Tysons,” Bowden said.

“What we need in Tysons is an athletic field,” Bowden added. “We need multi-use spaces for basketball or tennis courts, or even pickleball now.”

Raglan Road Park and the Freedom Hill Park to the south are both identified in the 2014 Tysons Park System Conception Plan as locations for some active recreation facilities. According to the plan:

The park is mostly forested upland, with a small clearing of about half an acre. Raglan Road Park is contiguous with the Old Courthouse Spring Branch Stream Valley, though the park does not have any regulatory Resource Protection Area (RPA) land on it. Prior to construction of any recreational uses at Raglan Road Park, additional land will need to be acquired to complete the park. This is due to the irregular shape of the park, and the land area needed to construct facilities.

But Judy Pedersen, public information officer for the Park Authority, noted that active recreation uses don’t have to be incompatible with preserving natural spaces.

“There are combinations uses of active natural areas and streams,” said Pedersen. “The urban park model tries to do a little bit of both. But the reality is we do need active recreation facilities in this area.”

Any moves towards redeveloping the park as an active space are still in the formative stages. As part of their proffers for The View project, the Clemente Development Company plans to contribute $750,000 to construct an athletic field at Raglan Road Park.

Pedersen said that other priorities for creating active use spaces in the area include trails to connect to nearby neighborhoods and playgrounds.

“This is all very conceptual,” said Bowden. “It all depends on how much land we ultimately acquire as part of that park. But eventually, it’s going to be more than it is today. It will provide for the park network in Tysons.”

Photo via Facebook

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