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The office building at 7700 Leesburg Pike could be redeveloped into townhomes (via Google Maps)

The Fairfax County Planning Commission gave its support to a proposed comprehensive plan amendment last week that will let a developer replace an aging Pimmit Hills office building at 7700 Leesburg Pike with townhomes.

The vote to recommend approval of the amendment came only after two commissioners and county staff worked with EYA Development to secure stronger language regarding the prospective developer’s obligations to address existing stormwater management and flooding issues.

“I think we’re at a place where we need to be in terms of strengthening that language and beefing it up,” Dranesville District Planning Commissioner John Ulfelder said during the Oct. 6 meeting. “So, as the rezoning proceeds, we have some clear guidance based on the particular issues and problems that this site and sub-water shed present.”

Initiated by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Sept. 15, 2020, the 7700 Leesburg Pike plan amendment process is unfolding in conjunction with a rezoning application that EYA submitted in December.

The developer has proposed building 104 single-family, attached townhouses — nine of which will be priced as affordable dwelling units — in place of the 150,000 square-foot office complex that currently occupies on the site.

The property is right on the edge of Pimmit Hills, which has encountered drainage and flooding challenges since construction began on the neighborhood in the 1950s, according to Ulfelder.

“People had muddy yards and so on,” he said. “Today, people — with some of the extraordinary rain events we’ve had — have had real problems with their basements and with their yards.”

Flood Factor, a tool developed by the nonprofit First Street Foundation, characterizes the overall risk of flooding in Pimmit Hills over the next 30 years as minor, but it says 174 properties, or 8% of all properties in the neighborhood, face a 26% or greater chance of being severely affected by flooding in that time frame.

A map of properties in Pimmit Hills facing flood risks, with 7700 Leesburg Pike in the red square (via Flood Factor)

In addition, the risk to residential properties and roads is increasing, with the latter already deemed at moderate risk of flooding, according to the database.

Fairfax County staff recommended in a report that the plan amendment include a provision requiring “stormwater management controls for the new development above the minimum standards are provided to the extent possible.”

However, Ulfelder and Braddock District Commissioner Mary Cortina raised concerns about what exactly that will entail at a Sept. 29 public hearing on the amendment. The commission decided to defer making a decision at that meeting.

“The feeling was, maybe the language that was being initially proposed didn’t go far enough in spelling out how we should proceed in order to try to reduce runoff,” Ulfelder said on Oct. 6.

The revised amendment includes a more specific explanation of the stormwater requirements that EYA will need to meet in order to get its proposed development approved:

Provide stormwater management controls above the minimum standards to the greatest extent possible to reduce runoff to good forested conditions; provide for an adequate outfall as informed by the Middle Potomac Watershed Plan; and to help mitigate downstream flooding.

EYA’s legal representative said at the public hearing that the developer plans to provide two facilities designed to capture water before releasing it at a slower rate, along with filters throughout the property that will improve the water quality.

The planning commission voted 10-0-1 to recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt the revised amendment, with At-Large Commissioner Timothy Sargeant abstaining and Commissioner Candice Bennett not present.

The commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on EYA’s rezoning application on Nov. 3.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Fairfax County Settles Wrongful Arrest Lawsuit — Fairfax County will pay $390,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by former D.C. firefighter Elon Wilson, who spent almost two years in prison after a police officer arrested him during a traffic stop in 2018, his lawyers said Monday (Oct. 11). A Circuit Court judge vacated Wilson’s conviction in April after police investigators uncovered then-Officer Jonathan A. Freitag’s history of pretextual traffic stops. [The Washington Post]

Pedestrian Hospitalized After Falls Church Crash — “Officers on scene of crash involving pedestrian in 6100 blk of Leesburg Pike. Pedestrian, a man, was taken to hospital w/ life-threatening injuries. Driver remained at scene & taken to hospital for non-life threatening injuries.” [Fairfax County Police Department/Twitter]

Personalized Sample Ballots Coming for Voters — “The Fairfax County Office of Elections is mailing a sample ballot beginning this week to each of the county’s 727,000 registered voters. The mailer also offers other helpful information, including: ways to request a mailed ballot, early voting locations and hours for those who choose to vote before Election Day, [and] each voter’s assigned polling place on Election Day.” [Fairfax County Government]

Vienna Halloween Parade Returns in Full — The Vienna Halloween Parade will be back at 7 p.m. on Oct. 27 after being revamped as a drive-by event last year. The parade will return to its normal route along Maple Avenue and surrounding streets with “The Roaring Twenties” as its theme and Rustic Love Vienna and the Vienna VA Foodies as grand marshals. [Patch]

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Office complex at 7700 Leesburg Pike in Tysons (via Google Maps)

The Fairfax County Planning Commission will vote on the possibility of converting a Tysons office building into residential use when it meets this Wednesday (Oct. 6).

The decision for the building at 7700 Leesburg Pike follows the commission’s deferral of a decision on the potential plan amendment during a Sept. 29 public hearing.

EYA Development submitted a rezoning application and development plan for the 6.7-acre site to redevelop the property on Dec. 15 before it was accepted by the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning on March 5.

Under the developer’s proposal, the site would be converted to 80 to 107 single-family attached units or stacked townhomes. The site currently houses a 167,274-square foot office building that was constructed in 1976.

In a presentation to the planning commission during last week’s public hearing, county planner Stephen Waller stated that staff considered a range of factors related to the amendment, including:

  • Land use compatibility with surrounding neighborhoods
  • Quality of active and passive open space
  • Tree preservation and transitional buffers
  • Storm water management
  • Multimodal connectivity
  • Historic resources

Waller added that staff recommends approving the plan amendment “to allow for an option for the property to develop with residential use with single-family attached dwellings or stacked townhomes.”

The recommendation comes with several proposed conditions, including a maximum height of four stories with siding design elements and landscaping to make the property compatible with adjacent low-density residential neighborhoods, as well as high-quality, well-designed, attractive, and publicly accessible open space and site amenities.

Other staff recommendations include:

  • Preservation of existing healthy and mature trees along boundaries
  • Supplement buffers year-round for screening visual to adjacent residences
  • Stormwater management controls above the minimum standards
  • Safe and conveniently access to existing and planned multimodal options
  • Document existing office for significance prior to demolition

Mark Looney, a partner with the Cooley law firm, spoke on behalf of EYA at the public hearing. He said the developer is working to address requests from the Pimmit Hills Civic Association (PHCA) for pedestrian improvements and upgrades are being addressed, but the PHCA and McLean Citizen’s Association have both offered general support for the proposal.

“The plan amendment contemplates a significant open space component,” he added.

Under the developer’s rezoning application, approximately 36% of the site has been reserved for either open space or urban park land that will be accessible to both residents of the development and residents of the surrounding communities. The public space plans include a fitness trail, small dog walk, and playground area.

EYA has also made provisions for a future expansion of Route 7, including the bus rapid transit proposal that will be brought to the commission later in the fall, according to Looney.

During the public hearing, Commissioners John Ulfelder and Mary Cortina sought further explanation of the stormwater management standards that have been proposed for the site.

According to Waller, staff’s condition that the stormwater management be above the county’s minimum standards was made in recognition of existing conditions of the Pimmit Run watershed and flooding in the area.

Looney said two quantity facilities have been proposed for the site — a vault along Route 7 and a set of chambers in the northeast portion of the property — that would capture water before releasing it at a slower rate than current conditions. A series of other filter devices across the property would also improve the quality of water that’s released.

However, he added that he would require engineers for the company to further explain the water management efforts in more specific detail following the hearing.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Tysons Wegmans Reopens After Hazmat Event — The Wegmans at Capital One Center (1835 Capital One Drive) was closed throughout the night on Wednesday (Sept. 22), a tipster who told Tysons Reporter, adding that there were “lots of fire trucks outside.” The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department says one of the store’s refrigerator lines had a leak, which “is considered a HAZMAT incident.” The scene was cleared that evening, and the store reopened yesterday (Thursday).

Falls Church Development to Delay Traffic Tomorrow — “Drivers should expect delays at the intersection of Broad St. (Rt. 7/Leesburg Pike) and Washington St. (Rt. 29/Lee Highway) on Saturday, September 25, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The traffic signal at that intersection is expected to be dark, and lanes will be closed…The closures are due to a contractor testing for the upcoming Broad and Washington private development project at the intersection.” [City of Falls Church]

Park Authority Recognizes County Leaders for Pandemic Response — “The Fairfax County Park Authority Board is honoring two individuals this year with Chairman’s Choice Awards for outstanding long-term support, service to, and advocacy on behalf of the Park Authority…County Executive Bryan Hill and Fairfax County Director of Health Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, are being hailed for their outstanding leadership during the challenging COVID-19 pandemic.” [FCPA]

Watch Demolition of Old NADA HQ in Tysons — Have a few free hours? Spend them watching the vacated National Automobile Dealers Association headquarters get reduced to rubble to make way for The Boro’s expansion. Demolition work is nearly complete on the building, which was among the first office towers in Tysons when it was constructed in 1975. [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]

1st Stage Theater Reflects on Staying Busy During Pandemic — “Instead of shutting down and laying off workers, 1st Stage took a different tack. The company committed to fulfilling every contract for three scheduled productions, keeping its entire staff employed and continuing to function at the fullest capacity possible under the circumstances, [artistic and managing director Alex] Levy said.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

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Morning Notes

Help Name Former Container StoreCelebrate Fairfax is turning the former Container Store at 8505 Leesburg Pike in Tysons into a community event venue whose name will be determined by a social media poll. The options are Tysons Commons, Tysons Collective, Social District at Tysons, and The PARC (People, Art, Recreation, and Community) at Tysons. [Celebrate Fairfax Festival/Twitter]

Inova-Tested Drug Helps COVID Patients — “A drug tested at Inova Health System has shown to improve clinical outcomes in hospitalized COVID-19 patients who required supplemental oxygen. The Phase 2 clinical trial evaluating the safety of fostamatinib was conducted on behalf of Rigel Pharmaceuticals Inc…Results were published Wednesday in Clinical Infectious Diseases, an official publication of the Infectious Disease Society of America.” [Inside NoVA]

Falls Church to Get First Electric School Buses — “FCCPS is one of 19 Virginia school divisions receiving a grant to replace diesel school buses with new electric buses. The grant announcement came last Thursday, in a news release from the governor’s office. FCCPS will receive $530,000 for two electric buses from the Volkswagen (VW) Environmental Mitigation Trust.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Local Nonprofit Names New Leader — “Vienna-based Langley Residential Support Services, a nonprofit serving adults with developmental disabilities, has named a new executive director. Langley Residential’s board hired Maureen K. Gum as executive director after she served as interim executive director.” [Patch]

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Ulta Beauty is moving into the former Performance Bike Shop space in Tysons’ Pike 7 Plaza

Ulta Beauty will be the next addition to Pike 7 Plaza in Tysons, property owner Federal Realty Investment Trust announced yesterday (Wednesday).

Purportedly the nation’s largest beauty retailer, Ulta Beauty will open its new location in the shopping center at 8350 Leesburg Pike in the spring of 2022. Over 25,000 products from more than 600 brands will be available for purchase in the new 10,000 square-foot space, according to a press release.

The company sells cosmetics, fragrances, skin care and hair products, and other beauty-related items.

“We are thrilled to welcome Ulta Beauty to Pike 7 providing the Tysons community and surrounding neighborhoods with an unparalleled and comprehensive beauty experience in one convenient location,” Federal Realty Vice President of Asset Management Deirdre Johnson said. “Ulta has revolutionized the beauty experience by inspiring confidence and encouraging inclusivity with self-care options for everyone.”

Ulta Beauty will replace the old Performance Bicycle Shop, two doors down from Staples.

This will be Ulta Beauty’s fourth Fairfax County location. According to its website, the Illinois-headquartered company currently has stores in Fair City Mall, Fair Lakes, and Bailey’s Crossroads.

Federal Realty recently submitted a rezoning application to Fairfax County seeking to build a drive-through restaurant in the Pike 7 Plaza parking lot. The proposal is still under review by the county’s planning and development department.

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Pike 7 Plaza (via Google Maps)

Pike 7 Plaza is going all in on carryout, even with restrictions limiting indoor dining now a thing of the past in Virginia.

When the novel coronavirus arrived in Fairfax County in the spring of 2020, the Tysons shopping center introduced a curbside pick-up program. Now, as the pandemic recedes, property manager Federal Realty Investment Trust wants to build off that momentum by introducing a drive-through restaurant to the plaza.

Federal Realty has filed a special exception application with Fairfax County’s planning department to permit a one-story, pad site restaurant with a drive-through and an outdoor seating area at 8365 and 8371 Leesburg Pike.

“This new use is needed in response to structural shifts in the retail economy that are increasing the reliance on pickup options as part of retail operations,” land-use attorney Greg Riegle wrote in a statement of justification on Federal Realty’s behalf. “Supporting the retail industry and allowing it to logically evolve is critical to maintaining the viability of areas planned and developed with established retail uses and will benefit the County and the Tysons community both economically and from a service delivery standpoint.”

Federal Realty declined to comment on its application when contacted by Tysons Reporter, including on whether a prospective tenant for the drive-through restaurant has been identified.

Current food-related tenants at Pike 7 Plaza include Starbucks, MOD Pizza, Cava Grill, Sakura Japanese Cuisine, and Panera Bread.

“Federal Realty looks forward to making future announcements regarding Pike 7, but as of now, there is nothing to report,” a Federal Realty spokesperson said.

According to plans submitted to the county, the proposed building would be 3,600 square feet in size and 18 feet tall with 16 parking spaces. The drive-through aisle would accommodate 11 vehicles, more than twice as many as required.

Locator map showing the proposed site for a drive-through restaurant in Tysons’ Pike 7 Plaza (via Fairfax County Department of Planning and Development)

Since the building would be situated in a currently unoccupied corner of the parking lot, Pike 7 Plaza would see an overall reduction in the amount of available parking from 738 spaces to 679 spaces. The site does not have a minimum parking requirement because it is located right next to the Greensboro Metro station.

“The proposed parking is more than adequate for a retail center that relies on both transit and automobile arrivals,” the statement of justification says.

Federal Realty does not expect the project to adversely affect neighboring properties or produce any conflicts with traffic in the shopping center or the surrounding area.

According to the application, the new building is being designed to “minimize the potential for turning movement conflicts and to facilitate safe and efficient on-site circulation.”

The site will also provide pedestrian access from Leesburg Pike and to the adjacent Tysons Square shopping center.

“Vehicular circulation takes advantage of existing access points and fits logically within the circulation framework of the greater shopping center,” Riegle wrote.

A special exception is required to allow a drive-through restaurant in a C-7 commercial retail district, the zoning for Pike 7 Plaza. The application says the new building will not preclude future redevelopment of the shopping center, if Federal Realty decides to pursue that option at some point.

Photos via Google Maps, Fairfax County

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The Virginia Department of Transportation is moving forward with plans to overhaul the intersection of Towlston Road and Leesburg Pike (Route 7), but despite requests from local residents, the highway’s speed limit will not be reduced after construction is finished.

VDOT officials say the need to move traffic to and from Tysons will keep the speed limit on Route 7 at 55 miles per hour.

VDOT discussed the changes coming to the Route 7 and Towlston intersection at a virtual town hall hosted by the Great Falls Citizens Association on March 31.

The need for improvements to the intersection emerged in the aftermath of a fatal crash in December. At the meeting, officials said the incident occurred when a vehicle traveling southbound on Towlston Road attempted a left turn onto Leesburg Pike. A distracted driver ran through the red light and struck the turning vehicle.

“What the community is seeking is an assurance that the intersection will be as safe as possible when VDOT completes its work under the widening project,” GFCA executive board director Mike Barclay said.

Barclay said that the intersection improvements need to ensure that, when a car turns left on Route 7 from Towlston, the driver “will have an unimpeded view of traffic traveling west on Route 7.”

Public feedback at the meeting ranged from urges to reduce the speed limit to a call to convert the intersection into a four-way stop.

Some of those concerns, particularly regarding sight-lines, should be waylaid by the current project to widen Route 7 from Reston to Tysons, VDOT said.

As part of the project, extended turn lanes will be added to Leesburg Pike to make it easier for trucks to turn onto Towlston Road, a response to the common complaint that trucks turning at the intersection often block several lanes of traffic.

Steve Kuntz, transportation business unit manager for consultant Dewberry, said sight-lines at the intersection will be improved as part of ongoing work at the intersection.

“We’re still not in the final configuration,” Kuntz said. “It is still a work in progress. We want to make sure everyone recognizes: what you see today is not the permanent configuration.”

But VDOT said there are no plans to reduce the speed limit on Leesburg Pike.

“Reducing speed on Route 7 is not an option,” VDOT district construction engineer Bill Cutler said. “It’s a highway to Tysons and needs to be able to move people along.”

However, changes will be made to Towlston Road, which will be reduced to 25 miles per hour near the intersection.

Cutler said VDOT will also be working with the contractor and the operations center to optimize timing at the signal as part of a broader effort to synchronize signals throughout the Route 7 corridor.

“We expect that this will function well,” Cutler said. “Now, it won’t function perfectly because we’re in Northern Virginia. Nothing functions perfectly, but it should function better than it has in the past. We’ll take counts and see how that holds up compared to our forecasts, and certainly to reality.”

Photo via Google Maps

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A luxury townhome developer wants to supplant an office complex on Leesburg Pike in Tysons with more than 100 units of housing.

EYA Development has submitted a rezoning application and development plan to Fairfax County seeking to build 104 single-family, attached dwellings on a 6.7-acre site at 7700 Leesburg Pike that is now occupied by a 150,000 square-foot commercial building that was constructed in 1976. The property owner, S.C. Herman & Associates, is also listed as an applicant.

Existing tenants include the Ismaili Cultural Center, the weight loss service SimplySlim Medical, the accounting firm Gilliland & Associates, a telecommunications contractor called McEnroe Voice and Data, and the private Standard College of Nursing.

Submitted on Dec. 15 and accepted by the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning last Friday (March 5), the application proposes rezoning the commercial site to the planned development housing district.

Under a PDH-16 zoning, the site would have a maximum density of 16 dwelling units per acre and require 281 parking spaces, which EYA says would be provided with two garage spaces for each housing unit and 73 surface spaces.

According to the conceptual development plan, the development would exceed open space requirements with 93,688 square feet of open space, including 38,688 square feet of recreational open space.

The plan features three dedicated open spaces on the north end of the site: a central courtyard with a pergola and terraces called The Green, a fitness area, and a playspace with a cherry tree grove, rain gardens, and birdhouses.

In terms of infrastructure, the development will include internal private roads with an exit to the south onto Leesburg Pike, and the site plan envisions 10-foot crosswalks across George C. Marshall Drive and a future road to the property’s east side that is included in the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan.

EYA notes in the plan that illustrations showing the future road are to demonstrate that the proposed development can accommodate the road but “is not a commitment for the applicant to construct the future road or infrastructure.”

The developer also says its proposal would not preclude any potential widenings of Leesburg Pike, and it plans to dedicate a portion of the site area for future road improvements introduced by a Route 7 bus rapid transit system.

“To the best of our knowledge, the proposed development will not pose any adverse impacts on adjacent properties,” the applicants say in the development plan.

Photo via Google Maps

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Nosie Barrier being installed along Route 7, between Reston Avenue and Utterback Store Road (Photo courtesy of VDOT)

A major project to widen nearly seven miles of Route 7 between Reston Avenue and Jarrett Valley Drive remains on track for completion by July 31, 2024.

It is also expected to be completed within its $314 million budget, Virginia Department of Transportation spokesperson Jennifer McCord confirms.

The improvements include widening the heavily-trafficked road — also known as Leesburg Pike — from four to six lanes between Reston and Tysons, adding shared-use paths for pedestrians and bikers, and making major design changes to intersections.

It’s all being done within the guidelines of the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan.

Discussions about the project began nearly a decade ago, and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved it in 2017. Workers broke ground on construction in June 2019. It’s expected to take just over five years to complete.

Over the last two months, construction has continued at different sections of the road.

While much of the construction activity currently underway is focused in the Reston and Great Falls sections of the project, crews in the Tysons segment between Faulkner Drive and Jarrett Valley Drive have been working to relocate a water main between Beulah Road and Towlston Road.

Eastbound traffic on Route 7 between Lewinsville Road and Jarrett Valley Drive in McLean has been shifted north to accommodate construction.

Landscaping work and third-party utility relocations are underway throughout the roadway.

Periodic traffic changes and lane closures are expected to occur throughout the corridor as construction continues.

While COVID-19 has limited crews’ ability to work side-by-side, the decreased traffic volume — particularly in the earlier part of the pandemic — has allowed VDOT to extend work hours.

Photo courtesy VDOT

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