Tysons Corner, VA

Next month, locals will get the chance to weigh in on a proposal to reduce the parking requirements at Tysons Corner Center and Tysons Galleria.

Fairfax County is considering a proposal that would affect the four largest malls in the county — the two in Tysons, Fair Oaks and Springfield Town Center — after a review earlier this year of the parking rates and demand at large regional malls.

Consulting firm Nelson/Nygaard conducted the study from June 5-8 by doing a parking county for the Springfield mall and analyzing data from the Fair Oaks mall. The study found that less than 65% of the available spaces were occupied during peak times, according to county documents.

The study did not evaluate the two malls in Tysons, county spokesperson Crystal Santos said.

When Tysons Reporter asked how the Tysons malls’ parking needs might differ from the two malls analyzed, Santos said:

The county envisions that Tysons will become a walkable, sustainable urban center as it redevelops leading to less car usage in the area and therefore less demand for parking. While Springfield is more urban than Fair Oaks because of bus service and Metrorail, it’s not as urban or accessible through public transportation as the two Tysons malls. We wanted to examine similar, more suburban malls to measure demand on parking for this study.

Santos added that there was a parking study in 2014 in Tysons before the Silver Line stations opened.

“The malls are also included in the Tysons Comprehensive Plan to transform the area into an urban center, as a result, the malls are able to reduce their effective parking rate to less than 2.5 per 1000 square feet of gross floor area through a county review and approval process,” Santos said.

A spokesperson for Tysons Corner Center did not respond to Tysons Reporter’s request for comment on the proposal.

The proposal would alter the requirement from four to 2.5 or three parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of gross floor area — the recommended change from Nelson/Nygaard. County staff is recommending the rate be 2.8 parking spaces.

“This is a more realistic parking requirement and, if implemented, would continue to provide an oversupply of parking at peak demand on weekdays and weekends during all times of the year,” according to county documents. “Overall, the changes will provide Fairfax County’s largest commercial retail centers additional flexibility to react to a changing retail marketplace.”

The Planning Commission plans to hold a public hearing on Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. before the Board of Supervisors has one on Dec. 3 at 4 p.m.

Image via Google Maps

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The developer of two mixed-use developments by the Spring Hill Metro will likely have to wait until next year for Fairfax County to determine the proposals’ fates.

Georgelas LLC is looking to redevelop car dealerships along the north side of Tyco Road into developments called West Spring Hill Station and North Spring Hill Station.

The development — particularly West Spring Hill Station — has faced concerns from county staff and the Planning Commission, including the projects’ synergy with The View, school overcrowding, and the abundance of artificial turf.

At the request of the developer, Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner, the commissioner for the Providence District, pushed the decisions last night (Thursday) about the projects to the end of the year.

“Since the public hearing on the Georgelas application, we’ve had a series of discussions with the applicant that represent progress but more attention needs to be given to some of these specifics,” Niedzielski-Eichner said.

The proposed North Spring Hill Station would replace the existing Tesla dealership with four new buildings, including two residential towers, one office tower and a parking garage with an athletic field on top. The existing Verizon telecommunications facility on the site would stay.

Meanwhile, West Spring Hill Station would add four buildings — two for residential, one for residential or office space and the final one for offices — and three public parks.

Fairfax County planners said that the North Spring Hill Station addresses the expectations in the Tysons Comprehensive Plan — but not the West Spring Hill Station.

“[West Spring Hill Station] does not fully address the criteria, particularly with regards to providing a comprehensive, functioning grid of streets; the provision of open space; and, coordination of development,” the staff report said.

The staff report also notes that the West Spring Hill Station may require further development of the Koons Tysons Toyota site.

The Planning Commission deferred its decision on the projects to Dec. 11.

While the developments were set to go before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Oct. 15, the agenda indicates that the public hearing will get pushed to a later date.

Since the Board of Supervisors’ last full meeting of the year is on Dec. 3, the fate of the two developments probably won’t get determined until 2020.

Images via Fairfax County 

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Plans are no longer in the works for an assisted living facility in the Vienna area after facing criticism by the Planning Commission and residents.

The proposed 86-bed facility would provide accommodations for people with dementia or memory loss at 2347 Hunter Mill Road, adjacent to the United Methodist Church of the Good Shepherd.

The applicant, Orr-BSL Hunter Mill, LLC, wanted to build a two-story building with approximately 43,680 square feet of space, along with outdoor courtyards and a garden for the facility’s residents.

Fairfax County planners gave the proposal a favorable recommendation in the staff report, writing,”In staff’s opinion, the development has been thoughtfully designed to be compatible with adjacent residential uses and to preserve the property’s rural character.”

Many residents opposed the proposed project during a four-hour-long public hearing in July, arguing to the Planning Commission that the proposal does not meet the county’s comprehensive-plan requirements.

Some of the commissioners agreed — including John Carter, the commissioner who oversees the Hunter Mill District.

Carter and another commissioner brought up a long list of issues with the proposal and special needs of the site at the Sept. 12 meeting — like pointing out that emergency vehicles might have trouble traveling to and from the site, which has a two-lane scenic by-way policy.

Carter also said the proposed facility’s size would not fit in with surrounding buildings. “It’s a football field in length,” he said.

Carter deferred the proposal indefinitely — essentially killing it since he said that other developers are eying the site.

“This is only one case. I expect more cases on this site,” he said.

Dranesville District John Ulfelder added that the site is pending being listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

While Ulfelder said that schools and churches would be appropriate on the site, he said that he was worried that a medical facility would “erode” the site’s history.

The application was withdrawn at the end of September.

Image via Fairfax County

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Columbia Baptist Church is ironing out parking and height issues linked to its expansion plans in the City of Falls Church.

The church wants to add a one-story, 33,000 square-foot building addition, along with a new sanctuary space with 1,192 seats, expanded paved surface parking and relocation of the parking lot and driveway along N. Maple Avenue.

The church (103 W. Columbia Street) is also seeking a variance that would allow the steeple to go 55 feet above the maximum height of 70 height to help bolster’s the church’s presence as a gateway to the city. The church argued that other churches have steeples above the maximum 70 feet.

Most of the discussion at the city’s Planning Commission meeting last night (Tuesday) focused on concerns that the church would have problems updating one of its ramps to make it ADA-compliant.

“On W. Columbia, both curb ramps at the midblock crosswalk need to be replaced,” according to the staff report.
“Since there are offsite parking agreements, all infrastructure that is being utilized in the right of way is required to be brought into current ADA standards.”

Facing the possibility of the proposal getting deferred because of the ramp, the team behind the church’s expansion said that they will figure out a way to meet the requirements for ADA-accessible ramps.

To address previous concerns about parking, the applicant added an extra 10 feet between the planned area for the parking spaces and nearby homes. The parking lot at the church was also redesigned to move the landscaping buffer between the parking lot and historic structures.

The Planning Commission approved the site plans and variance recommended.

The Board of Zoning Appeals will take up the church plans — decide if the church’s claims for the higher steeple will be allowed — at their meeting on Thursday, Oct. 17.

“Overall, I think it’s improved,” Andrew Rankin, the vice-chair of the city’s Planning Commission, said.

Image via Google Maps

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The City of Falls Church is planning to replace Oak Street Bridge after it was damaged from flooding in July.

Located at South Oak Street, the bridge runs over Tripps Run. The proposed plans would replace the bridge — which was flagged as being in poor condition before the flooding — with a new steel span bridge that will connect people to Howard E. Herman Stream Valley Park.

“Although the surface of this bridge was damaged during the July 8 floods, this long-term project was already pending,” according to a press release from the city.

More from the city:

In 2012, Dewberry inspectors found the bridge to be in poor condition with a bridge rating of four out of 10. There is severe corrosion in the steel beam webs. Timber blocking was installed at locations where steel beam webs were severely corroded. Concrete deck has spalling and numerous hairline cracks with some exposed rebar.

The bridge has been on a yearly inspection cycle since 2012. The rating has not changed and there have been no major changes from the 2012 condition. Each annual inspection recommends replacing or repairing the steel beams and concrete deck immediately.

The project’s estimated cost is $2.6 million and is partially funded by Regional Surface Transportation Program funds, the press release said. City officials are looking for additional grant funding.

The city’s Planning Commission is scheduled to discuss the conceptual design for the replacement bridge with the consultants and design team from Kimley-Horn on Monday, Oct. 21, at 7:30 p.m.

City officials will discuss the project timeline at the meeting.

The city will allow public input on the project until Nov. 6.

Image via City of Falls Church

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Tysons may soon get a new athletic field in connection to The Mile development.

The developers behind the previously approved The Mile project now want to create a youth-sized athletic facility in the Old Courthouse neighborhood of Tysons to fulfill one of the development’s proffers.

The developers want to create the field on a site along Boone Blvd that currently has an 8-story-tall office building and surface parking lot. The site was previously approved for an extended stay hotel that was never constructed.

The developers propose to convert the parking lot into a field measuring 180 feet by 330 feet. The field would be surrounded by a black chain link fence between 10-24 feet high to prevent balls from escaping and include portable toilets, bleachers and bike racks.

The parking lot would get reconfigured to serve both the athletic field and office building, which houses Cel-Sci Corporation and Liberty Tax Service. While the developers would own the field, Fairfax County Park Authority would operate and maintain the park.

“So we’re able to take advantage of that which I think is a creative way to find land in Tysons Corner that is much needed for athletic fields,” Elizabeth Baker, a senior land use planner for Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh, told the Fairfax County Planning Commission last night (Wednesday).

Baker said that while the athletic field is “youth-sized” because it is smaller than a full-size athletic field, she expects adults will use it as well.

“I think it’s a field that is going to be well used,” Baker said. “Obviously it’s an older building. It was built 40 years ago so it a site that’s been around for awhile, but is a large parking lot with excess parking in it.”

At-Large Commissioner Mary Cortina asked if restroom buildings could replace the portable toilets at the site.

“The Park Authority model of providing those porta-potties I think is really a holdover — even though we continue to do it — from another era when we were more suburban and there were no services in some of those park areas,” Cortina said. “This is right in the heart of Tysons.”

Baker said that having portable toilets at the site is no different than Ken Lawrence Park or Quantum Field in Tysons, “so it is meeting the standards for the Park Authority and that’s what we’ve provided here.”

Still, Cortina made a plea to the Park Authority to do away with portable toilets in the future.

“As we’re doing urban design we can’t forget the toileting needs,” Cortina said. “To continue to have these porta-potties throughout this urban development, it just seems to be incongruous with the rest of the streetscaping et cetera.”

A representative from the Park Authority said that restroom buildings are considered for fields and parks connected to larger developments and that portable toilets are appropriate for standalone parks.

Baker reassured Cortina that the portable toilets are in a corner of the site so that they won’t be visible to people walking or driving along Boone Blvd.

The Planning Commission voted to approve the proposal, which now heads to the Board of Supervisors.

“This new synthetic turf field will be a welcome addition to the Park Authority’s inventory of playing fields in Tysons,” Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner, the commissioner for the Providence District, said.

First image via Google Maps, images 2-3 via Fairfax County 

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Vienna residents will have the opportunity to share their input on the Vienna Town Council possibly extending the moratorium on new development applications for Maple Avenue.

The Vienna Town Council requested Monday night (Sept. 16) that staff schedule a public hearing on Nov. 4 to discuss extending the suspension of the Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) Zone from Nov. 15 to June 2020. The Planning Commission will also hold a public hearing.

The Town Council first put the moratorium in place last September to allow the town staff time to redesign the town’s guidelines. So far, the Vienna Town Council has approved four MAC projects and rejected one.

Councilmember Nisha Patel said that while she supports extending the moratorium, she would like to see the Town Council vote on new MAC guidelines before June. Mayor Laurie DiRocco said that town staff aims to have the plan go before the council by February.

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Columbia Baptist Church wants to expand in the City of Falls Church — but residents and Planning Commissioners have concerns about parking in the area.

At a Falls Church Planning Commission meeting on last Tuesday, Sept. 3, residents and commissioners discussed how parking expansion might affect not only the already-strained street parking situation but also how it might encroach on neighboring historic buildings.

In a zoning proposal application, the church requested two waivers concerning parking. They proposed to expand into a required 10-foot easement of a historic property near the back of the church, which would circumvent the city ordinances for shared parking. The church claims they have agreements with local property owners and that their services often take place during off-hours.

Along with growing membership, Brett Flanders, the executive director of the church, said the plan for extra parking would benefit its child development center. The on-site parking expansion would make it safer for parents to pick up their children and allow staff members to avoid street parking, he added.

Reducing the easement by 25% would provide the church with room for 15-25 more on-site parking spots, Planning Commission Chair Russell Wodiska said.

During the discussion, several commissioners including Melissa Teates were not convinced by the statements.

“I think the integrity of the historic houses are more important than the parking,” she said.

Teates said that she is familiar with the church and took the time to observe daycare pick up one day, finding that many parents like to park on the street anyway — saving them time in the long run.

“I just think regardless of the use, putting the parking lot so close to the historic house seems to go against the spirit and the letter of the ordinance put in place to protect historic properties,” Planning Commission Vice-Chair Andrew Rankin said, adding that he doesn’t see parking as a high priority.

Community member Keith Thurston also spoke up at during public comment and addressed the Planning Commission about his concerns, agreeing that the integrity of the historical protection ordinance is more important than expansion of church parking.

Besides parking, commissioners also discussed issues with the height ordinance, including whether or not the cross on top of the chapel would violate city code.

Though the commissioners did not settle on a decision, they prepared a list of suggestions for Columbia Baptist to consider and allowed them to revise the proposed plans.

If the church stays on schedule with their adjustments, the Planning Commission will vote on the proposition in October.

Map via the City of Falls Church Planning Commission 

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Falls Church and Vienna residents are concerned that proposed changes to urbanize Fairview Park will worsen traffic and put on a strain on overcrowded schools.

Fairfax County is currently considering altering the Merrifield Suburban Center to turn an office park engulfed by I-495, Lee Hwy and Route 50 into a mixed-use development with more office space, multi-family homes, a hotel, retail and recreational uses.

Fairview Park is currently home to offices — including the four-story-tall HIIT Contracting building — and residential communities by a lake.

County staff said in a report that mixed-use developments are more attractive to employees than single-use office parks. Additionally, the plan amendment would encourage developers to include affordable housing dwelling units or workforce dwelling units, along with senior living and student housing options.

Elizabeth Baker, a senior land use planner for Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh, told the Planning Commission that the fact that three of the eight previously planned office buildings have been built points to office parks being out an outdated concept. The offices at Fairview Park had a 29% vacancy rate last year, she said.

At the Fairfax County Planning Commission’s public hearing last night (Wednesday), residents urged the commissioners to scale back the number of housing units proposed for the area and speed up pedestrian and biking improvements, like a pedestrian bridge over Route 50 (Arlington Blvd).

While several residents who testified said they don’t want to see a new building along the man-made peninsula, county staff said that they have language in the plan amendment that would discourage that. If a developer decided to build there, they would be prevented from creating a mixed-use development.

Charlie Hall, who was on the task force that helped evaluate the proposed changes, told the commissioners that schools, park and transportation in the area “are under strain.”

While Hall noted that the Planning Commission is probably eager to repeat the “spectacular” Mosaic District, they are “in danger of choking on its success.”

Hall — and several other people — pointed to New Providence and Yancey drives at Fairview Park Drive as a “unique situation” that would require road work to make it safer — especially if thousands of more people eventually come to the area.

The plan currently proposes up to 1,060 dwelling units. Several of the residents who testified said that they prefer scaling back the number of units to 840.

Hall said that he thinks 840 housing units are “economically viable and will create an attractive community.”

Baker, the land use planner, argued that the extra units could help the housing shortage in the area. “We really do feel the need for the 1,060 [units],” she said.

Several residents also raised concerns about the anticipated 119 students the changes could add to the area, saying that nearby schools — like Falls Church High School — are over capacity.

Magaret Irish, representing the homeowners’ association for Carr at New Providence, said that plan amendment would be “the end of quiet evenings in our neighborhood,” in addition to threatening wildlife and trees in the area.

“When does more become enough?” she asked the commissioners. “We need less traffic. We need better infrastructure… We need schools, not wide roads.”

Kevin Warhurst, a McLean resident and member of the Greater Merrifield Business Association said that — while he is sympathetic to residents’ concerns — the changes “will allow [Fairview Park] to grow and thrive.”

“Having a mixed-use is important,” he said.

Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner, the commissioner for the Providence District, asked the commission to delay the vote on the plan amendment until next Thursday (Sept. 19) to give the Planning Commission time to review the public comments.

The proposal is set to head to the Board of Supervisors for a hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 24.

Images via Fairfax County 

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As Merrifield and Falls Church continue to urbanize, an office park east of I-495 may get transformed into a mixed-use development.

Last July, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors OK’d considering changes to parts of the Merrifield Suburban Center, which aims for two high-density, “core areas” located between I-66 and Woodburn Road.

Merrifield has already seen some major transformations — from developments like Halstead Square and Avenir Place to the new commercial area known as the Mosaic District.

Now, a proposed change to the plan would have an area surrounded by I-495, Lee Hwy and Route 50 become “an amenity-rich office park and mixed-use neighborhood.”

Directly to the east of I-495, Fairview Park currently has offices — including the four-story-tall HIIT Contracting building — by a lake and residential communities. A tributary of Holmes Run runs along the southern edge of the area.

Northrop Grumman Federal Credit Union and the 2941 restaurant are nearby.

The proposed plan amendment wants infill development to add more office space, multi-family homes, a hotel, retail and recreational uses to Fairview Park.

“The justification for the nomination states that the existing single-use office park model that was successful in the 1980s is no longer competitive with mixed-use work environments that provide retail and service amenities, as well as the opportunity to live near work,” according to a staff report on the proposed amendment.

More from the staff report:

The most intense activity area would be located just north of Route 50 and would include an outdoor plaza, and residential uses with first floor retail uses. At either end of the plaza, the concept would provide for social and cultural amenities such as waterfront recreation, an amphitheater, free-standing retail pavilions, and an indoor community space. Midrise residential buildings with first floor retail uses would frame the plaza and infill elsewhere in the sub-unit.

An enhanced network of sidewalks and trails with a more suburban, naturalistic streetscape appearance would link the existing and new development and the natural areas of the office park, including the Holmes Run tributary and the shore of Fairview Lake.

On the east side of Fairview Park Drive, the nomination proposed to develop a residential building on a man-made peninsula in order to capitalize on the natural setting and the proximity of the lake.

The staff report notes that demand for office space has declined as options like teleworking become more popular and that workers want access to public transit and shopping and dining options.

The proposed amendment to the Merrifield Suburban Center plan would also alter an area catty-corner to Fairview Park near the Inova Fairfax Hospital.

Both areas would incorporate residential uses. The staff report recommends that the plans for those areas include affordable dwelling units or workforce dwelling units to add to the county’s Housing Trust Fund and “create an inclusive community”, along with senior living options and housing for college students.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the proposed changes today (Sept. 11) before they head to the Board of Supervisors for a hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 24.

Image via Fairfax County 

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