Tysons Corner, VA

The Town of Vienna decided to keep working with the developer to tweak a contentious, mixed-use project along Maple Avenue.

In June, the Vienna Town Council approved the redevelopment, which would add a four-floor building with ground-floor retail and more than three dozen multi-family residential condominium units at 380 Maple Avenue.

Then in July, the Vienna Town Council decided to hold a public hearing on possibly rescinding the rezoning application after some councilmembers pointed to the town’s failure to notify the county about the project — along with other issues — as justification to revisit the project.

The joint public hearing last night (Monday) by the Town Council and the town’s Planning Commission started off with a tense conversation between councilmembers about whether a possible rescission would kick the application back to the Planning Commission or result in a repeal.

“We’re not here to kill the application,” Councilmember Pasha Majdi, one of the councilmembers who originally brought up possibly rescinding the project, said. “We’re here to rescind approval and send it back to the Planning Commission to fix some mistakes that have been made.”

Among the handful of “mistakes” brought up about the project during the hearing, several planning commissioners and councilmembers pointed to a debated road narrowing sparking safety concerns.

Planning Commissioner Stephen Kennedy noted the council’s desire to keep Wade Hampton Road at 36 feet instead of the project’s approved reduction to 32 feet. “It seems to be a contentious point for at least some of the neighbors and [some councilmembers],” he said.

“If we can figure out a way to go forward if the developer or the town is OK with the 36 feet, I think we would be saving everybody a lot of time in the interest of working together,” Councilmember Nisha Patel said. “Can we just make this happen somehow legally?”

Councilmember Howard Springsteen said that keeping the road at 36 feet could create a “win-win.”

Ultimately, the Vienna Town Council voted to negotiate the project’s proffers with the developer until Aug. 5.

Photo via Town of Vienna Planning and Zoning

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The Mile, a proposed mixed-use development in Tysons, received approval from the Fairfax County Planning Commission last night (Wednesday).

The massive development aims to transform 38 acres of office park east of Tysons Galleria into 10 mixed-use buildings with residential, retail, office, hotel and storage locations.

The development is unique with its multitude of parks — six in total spanning more than 10 acres. The largest one — Signature Park — would encompass an entire block in the development, the Fairfax County Planning Commission’s staff report said, adding:

The Signature Park includes 216,200 square feet (approximately 5 acres) and encompasses the entire land area of Block E. The Signature Park is intended as a regional facility intended by the Plan to serve the greater Tysons area and will include a large open lawn area, a performance stage, gaming areas, picnic areas, a children’s play area, walking/jogging trails, and a water feature. The proffers provide for the possible dedication of this Signature Park to the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA).

Before the vote, Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner, the commissioner for the Providence District, said that he worked with the applicant to resolve seven issues in the staff report.

“This is a complicated project of very high significance for the future of Tysons, so it’s taken some time to work itself through,” he said.

Of those issues, Niedzielski-Eichner commented on three — architectural diversity, payment to the county’s Housing Trust Fund and sidewalks.

He said that the developers will ensure variety with the 10 buildings, which will be constructed over 10-20 years.

“It feels important this level of commitment to diversity of architecture, particularly the skyline, so that the future Planning Commission has a clear narrative on how each building proposed will be different from other buildings on the property,” he said.

As for the fund, Niedzielski-Eichner said that the developers increased their contribution to $1.50 per square foot. Meanwhile, he said that he expects Signature Park and the retail to be a “magnet for future activity.”

Niedzielski-Eichner praised the project for how its urbanization of Tysons.

The development is scheduled to go before the Board of Supervisors next Tuesday (July 16).

Images via Fairfax County Planning Commission

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The Mile, a proposed mixed-use development, is looking to make Tysons North greener.

The development aims to transform 38 acres of office park east of Tysons Galleria into 10 mixed-use buildings with residential, retail, office, hotel and storage locations.

But unlike some developments proposed and built in Tysons, The Mile is planning on adding six new parks totaling more than 10 acres.

The largest one — Signature Park — would encompass an entire block in the development, the Fairfax County Planning Commission’s staff report said, adding:

The Signature Park includes 216,200 square feet (approximately five acres) and encompasses the entire land area of Block E. The Signature Park is intended as a regional facility intended by the Plan to serve the greater Tysons area and will include a large open lawn area, a performance stage, gaming areas, picnic areas, a children’s play area, walking/jogging trails, and a water feature. The proffers provide for the possible dedication of this Signature Park to the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA).

The development also includes a dog park, linear park, recreation park and two urban parks.

At the Planning Commission’s hearing on the project last night (June 19), the commissioners debated whether or not private ownership of Signature Park would open up the possibility of the developers trying to build on that land later on.

Vice Chairman James Hart said that he doesn’t want Signature Park to be privately owned — like most parks are in Tysons, according to Planning Commission staff — saying, “It could become something else five years later.”

Commissioner John Carter, who oversees the Hunter Mill District, said that any changes to the park would put the project over the density limits.

The developer’s representative reaffirmed to the Planning Commission that the developers plan to offer Signature Park to the Fairfax County Park Authority.

John Ulfelder, the planning commissioner for the Dranesville District, raised a concern that was unrelated to the parks: the project’s uniform rooflines.

“In 2010 when we adopted the Tysons Plan, the expectation was we would get a variety of creative and innovative and attractive architecture throughout Tysons,” he said. “As it got developed, I’ve been a little disappointed with what we’ve seen thus far.”

Ulfelder asked to defer the decision on the project to give Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner, the commissioner for the Providence District who was absent, time to review the project.

The Planning Commission decided to defer the decision on the development to July 10.

Images via Fairfax County Planning Commission

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The Fairfax County Planning Commission greenlighted yesterday (June 12) a proposed senior living facility in Tysons despite concerns from staff about the height, size and open space.

Fairfax County staff recommended denial of the proposed two-tower senior living complex called The Mather.

The proposed building would go 60 feet above the 225-foot maximum. “The excessive height combined with a narrow building footprint oriented diagonally results in a building mass that inconsistent with adjoining structures and overwhelms the street,” according to the staff report.

Staff also took issue with the developer wanting to move the open space from an area on top of the parking garage to a sloping area behind the parking garage.

According to the staff report:

The three major issues noted above are all interrelated and stem from the manner in which the continuing care facility is proposed to be integrated into the existing Arbor Row development. 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.

While Providence District Planning Commissioner Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner called the proposal “one of the most complicated applications the commission will recall,” he ultimately brought forth a motion to approve the project.

Before the vote, Niedzielski-Eichner asked staff to address each of the three major concerns and allowed the applicant’s representative, John McGranahan Jr., to respond.

McGranahan argued that the recommended denial by staff was not considering the proposal’s height and size in the context of the surrounding neighborhood.

A staffer said that the mass of the building was considered to be out of context to the nearby buildings and that the applicant’s desire for more height for operational and financial considerations wasn’t enough justification to go above the maximum height.

Staff and McGranahan also disagreed on the relocation and redesign of the open space.

By the end of the back and forth, Niedzielski-Eichner said he was persuaded by the applicant’s reasoning.

Now that the proposal has a favorable recommendation from the Planning Commission, it heads to Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors.

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. The development aims to transform the back end of Tysons Galleria along Westpark Drive into a suite of mixed-use buildings.

Image via Fairfax County Planning Commission 

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Furry four-legged friends in the Town of Vienna may get a new animal hospital.

Banfield Pet Hospital, a preventative health care provider for pets with more than 1,000 locations across the country, wants to bring its services to 414 E. Maple Avenue.

“The hospital will primarily service the surrounding community,” according to the staff report.

Built in 1967, the building has two tenant spaces — one space is home to Leslie’s Pool Supplies, while the other one is the vacant spot Banfield wants.

Banfield plans to provide a range of services, according to its application, including:

  • full-service veterinarian care
  • general surgery
  • a pharmacy
  • retail pet supply sales
  • an internal dog run area

The animal hospital would operate between 7 a.m.-7 p.m. seven days a week. It would not allow pets to stay overnight or provide long-term boarding.

About 20 to 25 pets would visit the animal hospital daily, Aaron Vorasane, the applicant’s representative, told the Planning Commission last night (Wednesday).

As part of the application, the animal hospital wants to install a 4-foot-tall chain link fence to help prevent trash and debris from entering a nearby creek and create a waste pick-up bag station on the grassy area to the side of the building.

Commissioner Sharon Baum raised a concern about dog urine running into the creek. Commissioner Mary McCullough responded by saying that Banfield’s proposed fence and waste area would encourage dog walkers and owners to keep their pets’ waste in a confined area away from the creek.

To limit noise, Banfield wants to install soundproofing in the wall neighboring Leslie’s Pool Supplies.

“Staff believes that the applicant is proposing appropriate mitigation strategies for any potential impacts from the business,” according to the staff report. “The installation of the chain link fence along the rear property line will further mitigate impacts to the abutting creek.”

The Planning Commission voted in favor of the animal hospital. The application now moves onto the Board of Zoning Appeals, which will consider the conditional use permit.

Image via Google Maps

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The Sunrise Senior Living Facility proposed for downtown Vienna received approval from the town’s Planning Commission last night (May 22).

The senior facility has faced a myriad of concerns around its parking, retail space and location at the corner of Maple Avenue and Center Street.

After public hearings, dozens of residents and some of the planning commissioners said they are worried that the parking spaces might not accommodate all of the visitors, employees, shoppers and roughly 100 residents.

Recent modifications that the Planning Commission OK’d last night dropped the number of units from 83 to 82, removed the mezzanine, reduced the retail to 2,264 square feet, altered the fence height and removed the grand staircase inside the facility — changes the developers said addressed town residents’ previous criticisms.

The changes mirror a solution proposed by Planning Commissioner Mary McCullough at the May 8 meeting to reduce the retail space to free up the parking spaces that retail employees and shoppers would use.

“The improvements are a true reflection that you listened,” McCullough told the developers last night.

While most of the planning commissioners said they thought the modifications improved the project, Commissioners Sharon Baum and David Miller said they still had reservations.

Baum said that she wanted to see more retail space instead of less, while Miller brought up a concern about the senior living facility’s placement.

“Is this the use we want at this corner?” Miller asked, questioning how many of the older residents would visit nearby retail and restaurants. Miller said that he would rather see apartments or condominiums, hinting at younger residents.

Ultimately, the Planning Commission approved the modifications and the proposal.

“Is it perfect? No,” Michael Gelb, who chairs the Planning Commission, said. “I haven’t seen a perfect project yet.”

Next up, the proposal has a Vienna Town Council meeting scheduled for June 3. Town Council has until Aug. 2 to make a decision.

Rendering via Town of Vienna

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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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Vienna Planning Commissioners may have found a solution last night (May 8) to parking and retail space concerns plaguing the proposed Sunrise Senior Living Facility.

Concerns raised about the proposed 83-unit facility at yesterday’s public hearing were similar to ones brought up at the last public hearing: parking, ground floor retail space and location.

Several residents and planning commissioners said they are worried that the 60 parking spaces might not accommodate all of the visitors, employees, shoppers and roughly 100 residents, adding to already problematic traffic congestion around Church Street.

Jerry Liang, the senior vice president of development for Sunrise, said that the removal of a compact parking space resolved an issue brought up at the last public hearing about easy access for ambulances. He also said that some of the facility’s employees will probably use public transit and carpools, freeing up more parking spaces.

In addition to the parking, residents said the ground floor retail at the senior living facility won’t appeal to shoppers. “Would you do your Christmas shopping at the hospital gift shop?” resident Christopher Hogan asked.

Toward the end of the meeting, Planning Commissioner Mary McCullough questioned whether the development was required to have the retail space, which then led to a possible solution: eliminate some or all of the retail space, which would free up the retailers’ 29 parking spaces.

The possible solution to the parking and retail space woes, however, does not address one other concern.

While residents said they support the idea of having a senior living facility come to the town, some took issue with the location at E. Maple Avenue and Center Street — the heart of downtown Vienna.

“I don’t want our centerpiece of town to be assisted living,” a man who said he runs a local business next to the proposed site told the Planning Commission.

Resident Nancy Logan urged the planning commissioners to consider other options for the space. “The location is something very important,” she said. “I’d love to see a hotel or something that could help Vienna.”

Vienna resident Chuck Anderson said during public comment that he doesn’t think a senior living facility will add synergy to the local bars and businesses.

Some residents said they wished the project could get moved to a different location, but the Planning Commission doesn’t have that authority.

“I really like Sunrise,” resident Shelley Ebert said during public comment. “I wish they would move to the west and come to my neighborhood.”

Ultimately, the Planning Commission decided to return to the development at their next meeting.

Rendering via Town of Vienna

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Bear Branch Tavern is eyeing a space that once belonged to a bank along Maple Avenue in the heart of downtown Vienna.

The restaurant wants to move into a roughly 6,700-square-foot ground floor space in an office building known as the Vienna Professional Center (133 Maple Avenue E.). The building was built in 1983 and has eight units, including the basement, according to a Town of Vienna staff report.

Bear Branch Tavern plans to occupy units 100 and 100A, which have been vacant since Cardinal Bank left about two years ago.

The restaurant would have 249 seats for indoor and outdoor areas in both the front and rear areas of the building, transforming the former bank teller drive-thru canopy into a rear patio, according to the staff report.

“Staff believes that a restaurant of this size with outdoor seating will help encourage a more vibrant Central Business District,” the staff report says.

In addition to offering food and drinks, the tavern also hopes to entertain patrons with live music. The plans show a location for acoustic performers on the back deck near the proposed fire pit.

The Planning Commission is scheduled to provide a recommendation on conditional use permits for outdoor dining and live entertainment at tonight’s meeting.

The meeting will also continue the public hearing on the Sunrise Senior Living Facility proposal — residents’ concerns about parking, safety and retail space dominated the last public hearing on April 24.

The meeting starts at 8 p.m. in the Town Hall Council Chambers (127 Center Street S.).

First image via Google Maps, second via Vienna Planning Commission

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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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