Newsletter
A rendering shows what a transformed Tysons Galleria would look like with a new service center and electric vehicle business on the ground floor (via Fairfax County)

Luxury electric vehicle manufacturer Lucid Motors passed a crucial step yesterday (Wednesday) toward getting its first service and delivery center in the D.C. area.

The company is seeking to open a venue in the basement of the former Macy’s at Tysons Galleria, converting the store doors and indoor space to allow vehicles to drive inside for servicing.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission voted on Wednesday (Oct. 20) to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the special exception proposal, which would give Lucid Motors five service bays and two vehicle display areas. Delivery service would also occur there.

Outside, 10 electric vehicle charging stations would be available for customers and the public in a nearby parking area, bringing the mall up to 22 stations.

“Like Tesla and other companies, this will be a big step forward in helping to further improve the environment and offer customers and area residents an alternative choice to the internal combustion engine,” said Bernie Suchicital, a land use planner with the law firm Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh.

The firm is representing the applicant Tysons Galleria Anchor Acquisition LLC, which is connected to Brookfield Properties, the real estate company that took over the mall in 2018.

“The architecture will be contemporary in style, in keeping with the rest of the building, and will include a glass storefront at the corner of the building as it wraps toward International Drive,” an Oct. 7 staff report said.

A Board of Supervisors public hearing on the application has been scheduled for Nov. 9.

Lucid Motors plans to operate seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. with no on-site vehicle sales, according to the county. The company’s least-expensive vehicle starts at around $70,000 when a tax credit is applied, according to TechCrunch.

County staff recommend that the location also be restricted from offering rentals.

Walsh Colucci senior land use planner Elizabeth Baker noted in an Aug. 13 letter that the location will allow customers to configure and experience a new Lucid vehicle virtually as well as in person.

The company would also have 40 parking spots at the mall to store new and serviced vehicles.

The planned service center is part of the Tysons Galleria’s ongoing redevelopment of its former Macy’s store. Next to the proposed location, Bowlero opened earlier this month on the ground floor.

Lucid Motors is also working to open a studio this year at nearby Tysons Corner Center, which has asked Fairfax County to allow vehicle sales for up to eight businesses in its parking garages.

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A map of The Boro proposed extension in Tysons from the development plan. Silverstone Senior Living is planned for Building J (via Fairfax County)

The Fairfax County Planning Commission voted on Wednesday (Oct. 13) to advance the proposed Silverstone Senior Living facility at The Boro in Tysons.

Plans for the senior housing call for the construction of a 16-story building with 275,000 square feet of gross floor area and up to 210 beds with 198 rooms. Of those rooms, 118 will be designated for independent living, 56 for assisted living and 24 for memory care. The facility is not anticipated to have skilled nursing care.

The facility — which is expected to be finished in late 2023 — is one of four parcels planned as part of an expansion of The Boro by developer The Meridian Group.

The other parcels include two workforce and market-rate residential buildings with approximately 34,000 square feet of retail, with one block offering 122 residences and the other 421 residences. The two buildings could be complete in 2024.

The final block is planned for town homes or a health club to supplement a park at the corner of Clover and Broad streets.

The planning commission’s approval of the plans and rezoning application for the senior living facility comes on the heels of an Oct. 6 public hearing, where citizens shared comments about accessibility, stormwater management, the design of streetlights, and more.

In terms of stormwater management, county staff explained the inclusion of bioretention tree pits in the project to treat storm water from adjacent roadways.

“On this particular application, it’s treating more than 30% of the storm water generated on this site,” Katie Quinn, from the county’s department of planning and development, said.

“I think, more broadly, staff acknowledges and appreciates the concern of having these next to parking lanes, and we’ll be doing some more research internally to see if there’s something differently we can do going forward to address that concern.”

Quinn also noted that landscaping amenity panels planned next to on-street parking will have an 18-inch step off between the curb and tree pits, but there will be breaks in the panels “so that someone can kind of cut through the landscape amenity panels to get to the sidewalk.”

Elizabeth Baker, a land-use lawyer with Walsh Colucci who represented The Meridian Group, gave the commission a commitment to provide the same kind of lighting on this new portion of The Boro as originally provided, while keeping with the Tysons Urban Design Guidelines.

In response to a query about providing an alternative to dog parks, Baker said the project will include multiple parks and proposed an additional proffer to provide pet waste stations in each park and on Clover Street.

Lynne Strobel, an attorney representing Silverstone, responded to concerns about emergency access for residents at the facility by saying that the drop-off area provided on Boro Place will allow easy access to the building for emergency responders, and that the garage will also have an area designed for non-emergency pickups.

Before Wednesday’s voting concluded, however, multiple members of the commission emphasized the need for conscious thought and planning for accessibility to be implemented in The Boro going forward.

“I think that we need — and I mean both applicants and the county staff — to think more carefully and creatively about accessibility issues throughout Tysons,” said John Ulfelder, who serves as the planning commission’s vice chairman and represents Dranesville District.

“The fact is, this is a new city, highly diverse, something for everyone, and we’re trying to make certain that everybody with accessibility issues are fully accounted for and included in the new urban community.”

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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

McLean Soccer Field Conversion Reaches Completion — “The Fairfax County Park Authority, in collaboration with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and McLean Youth Soccer Association, will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the grand opening of Holladay Field in McLean, Virginia. The celebration begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021.” [FCPA]

Town of Vienna Downsizes Planning Commission — “Seeking to bring the Vienna Planning Commission’s membership in line with those of similarly sized nearby jurisdictions, the Vienna Town Council on Oct. 11 agreed to reduce the commission’s size from nine members to seven…Three Planning Commission members have departed this year.” [Sun Gazette]

Celebree School Tysons to Hold Grand Opening — “Celebree School, a preschool and infant and toddler care center, is celebrating its grand opening in Tysons with a fall festival on Saturday, Oct. 16. The preschool and child care center announced its opening in September at Valo Park, 7950 Jones Branch Drive, McLean.” [Patch]

Fairfax County Urges Flu Shots — The Fairfax County Health Department is encouraging everyone 6 months of age and older to reduce their risk of contracting the seasonal flu by getting vaccinated, ideally before the end of October. Public health nurse Alisa Brooks talks about what people should know about this year’s flu season in a YouTube video. [FCHD/Twitter]

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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

Vienna Church Assists with Afghan Resettlement Efforts — The Vienna Presbyterian Church is working with OneHeartDC and Lutheran Social Services to support the ongoing effort to help Afghan refugees who have come to Northern Virginia after fleeing their now-Taliban-controlled homeland. The church is specifically asking for donations of “welcome home kits” that can be dropped off at 123 Park Street NE on Wednesday or Thursday (Sept. 1 and 2). [Patch]

McLean-Based Firefighter Dies — “The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department is deeply saddened to announce the death of Firefighter Kevin Weaver, who passed away Saturday, August 28, 2021. Firefighter Weaver has been a valued member of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department since joining in September 2018 as a member of Recruit Class 144. He was assigned to Fire Station 1, McLean, at the time of his passing.” [FCFRD/Facebook]

Vienna Planning Commission Approves Cottage Development — “A proposal to build 12 “cottage-style” housing units at 117-121 Courthouse Road, S.W., received the Vienna Planning Commission’s unanimous approval Aug. 25 and now heads to the Town Council. Developer Dennis Rice of JDA Custom Homes is proposing to build six two-family dwellings clustered along a common green.” [Sun Gazette]

Tysons Corner Disney Store To Survive Closures — The Disney store at Tysons Corner Center will be the last one standing in Northern Virginia with its lone remaining companion at Potomac Mills set to shutter by Sept. 15. The company is closing all about a couple dozen of its physical stores this year to focus on online retail, though Target is planning to open more than 100 Disney shops inside its stores by the end of 2021. [Patch]

Tysons Interfaith Hosts Essay Contest on Post-COVID Future — “Tysons Interfaith, a coalition of 19 faith communities in the Tysons area, is sponsoring an art and essay contest focusing on positive lessons from the COVID pandemic. ‘A Whole New World Starts Now’ will offer cash prizes for those in three age groups: youth (12 and under), teen (13-18) and adult…Entries will be accepted through Oct. 15, with award winners announced Nov. 1.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

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A new little “village” neighborhood could soon be built on three-vacant parcels on Courthouse Road Southwest behind a Maple Avenue strip mall.

At a meeting tomorrow (Wednesday), the Town of Vienna Planning Commission is scheduled to review an application to build six two-family buildings with a total of 12 residential units and a clubhouse on what is today a vacant three-parcel lot.

As part of the application, developer JDA Custom Homes is requesting to use up to 60% of the lot, an increase over the 25% currently allowed.

The development at 117 and 121 Courthouse Road SW would be located behind a small shopping center that includes Lotus Garden and Pure Barre.

“The proposed development is a cottage-housing style development where a small group of generally smaller homes are centered around a common area,” the staff report said. “The architectural style of the two-family dwellings will be similar to the architecture often seen with cottage housing developments, which includes a relatively short building height, a compact footprint, and a maximum of one and a half stories.”

Each unit in the new development would also include a two-car garage on the basement level accessible on a loop around the residences. Parallel visitor parking would be located along that same service drive.

JDA Custom Homes first pitched the idea of building cottage housing on Courthouse Road in December, but at that time, the Vienna Town Council took issue with the developer bringing forward a new proposal just weeks after it had approved dividing the lot into three plots for single-family homes.

Now, JDA is seeking to get the site rezoned again for multi-family, low-density development.

The staff report notes that the subject parcels have been designated for “low-density residential” and “mixed-use” zoning in Vienna’s Future Land Use Plan. It says the proposed change would not constitute spot zoning, because it would help separate the commercial activity on Maple from the nearby single-family houses.

“The Comprehensive Plan includes language that supports the proposed development as a transition from commercial development to single-family detached residential,” the report says. “It also specifically supports village housing (also known as cottage court housing) as a desired type of housing.”

A smaller form of housing that falls in between single-family houses and apartments, cottage housing is among the changes being contemplated as part of the town’s Code Create Vienna zoning code overhaul, which is expected to be completed this winter.

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Renderings of Little City Commons development in Falls Church (image courtesy EYA)

An update to the Falls Church Gateway project is headed to the Falls Church City Council with an uncertain approval from the Planning Commission, following a long discussion over whether the city should be more ambitious with its affordable housing goals.

The update primarily involved a proposal to expand the senior housing facility planned for the development by an additional 35,000 gross square feet, bringing the maximum square footage up from 225,000 to 260,000 square feet.

Staff also recommended approval of additional affordable housing at the mixed-use development in exchange for the added density — a relatively common trade in residential development.

The discussion of the project during the planning commission’s eight-hour meeting on Wednesday (Aug. 4) was convoluted to the point where even commission members were unsure what they were voting on by the end.

Ultimately, the commission gave its support to the staff recommendation that the city accept the developer’s concession of making 4% of housing in the multifamily section affordable to a range of incomes, including lower income households.

“The market is much less likely to accommodate the provision of homes in these ranges,” the staff report said. “Since there is a need for housing across the spectrum of affordability, the concession of 6% of ADUs affordable to households at 60% AMI would be acceptable as well.”

In a confusing back and forth over changes and amendments, the commission ended with recommending “additional ADUs provided at the AMI levels recommended by staff.”

Commission members flirted with the idea of adding more ambitious language into the recommendation and requiring higher levels of affordable housing in keeping with earlier plans, but also discussed the careful balance involved in credibility as an advisory group.

“The more we put in recommendations they ignore, the less they take anything seriously,” chair Brent Krasner said. “I think we have to be careful about putting a wishlist of things that aren’t going to happen…At his point it’s unlikely the council will make any changes…Otherwise it’s just about getting our principals out there as a protest.”

The recommendation, Krasner admitted, was vague, but it could open the door for further discussion at the city council meeting on Monday (Aug. 9).

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Map of the West Falls Church Metro development sites (photo courtesy EYA)

Concerns raised by both local citizens and Fairfax County Planning Commission members over the impact of a new West Falls Church Metro station development plan prompted the commission to defer a vote on the project on Wednesday (June 16).

The West Falls Church Metro station is one of the most underutilized stations in the Metro system, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has enlisted developer EYA to turn the site into a mixed-use development.

The plan was endorsed by a task force appointed by Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, but at Wednesday’s public hearing, several nearby residents and civic association representatives spoke out with concerns about the project — though others praised it as an improvement over the existing space.

“There are several focused criticisms and concerns raised about the current proposal by the [McLean Citizens Association] and by some of the nearby residents, who feel that we need to go further than this plan suggests,” said Dranesville District Planning Commissioner John Ulfelder.

Much of the criticism focused around the effect of traffic brought by the project on nearby roads that the county acknowledges were not made to support a sizable increase in density.

Braddock District Commissioner Mary Cortina said she was concerned that the plans fail to adequately address pedestrian safety.

“The text I see in the pedestrian area talks about convenience and comfort: it doesn’t talk about safety,” Cortina said. “This is life and death. We have to call out safety where we have pedestrian sections because that should be a priority.”

County staff said a follow-up study will look at identifying funding for pedestrian safety and traffic improvements for nearby streets that are outside of the scope of the current project but will still likely be affected by it.

“Haycock Road and Route 7 prevent a lot of people from crossing safely [to the Metro],” said Tim Kutz, a transportation planner with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation. “That’s something we’re going to look at further in the transportation plan looking at the surrounding neighborhood. It’s important that people have an opportunity to bike and walk safely…A lot of older neighborhoods don’t have sidewalks, don’t have crosswalks, and don’t have connectivity.”

Kutz said the funding for those future pedestrian improvements is something the county would “have to explore” later.

Some nearby residents commented that they support the project, notably Cheryl Smith, who represented the Gates at West Falls Condominiums and served as the majority vote for the West Falls Church TSA Task Force.

Smith argued that the project would be a net increase in terms of quality of life for those surrounding the project, but others disagreed.

“The WMATA site is not suitable,” said Adrienne Whyte, representing the recently-launched Reclaim Fairfax County group. “This is a lovely but limited fiction.”

Whyte said the West Falls Church Metro station is intended to be a neighborhood-serving station rather than a site for significant developments.

In the middle was Phil Cooke from the McLean Citizens’ Association, who said the MCA supported the developer’s plans, but with the provision that the county must further study ways to address the potential consequences of increased density and congestion.

“[This] will strain Route 7 congestion further than it already is,” Cooke said. “Folks will seek to avoid Haycock and Route 7 and exit the back way, increasing local congestion.”

At Ulfelder’s suggestion, the board voted unanimously to defer its decision on the comprehensive plan amendment to the June 30 meeting, to collect further feedback and reflect on public comment before the Commission votes on the project.

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Getting to and from Metro stations can be a harrowing experience for pedestrians and cyclists, and the Fairfax County Planning Commission and others want something to be done about it.

The planning commissioners have called on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to require Metro, the state and county transportation departments, and more to “work immediately” to make safety and accessibility improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists to transit stations.

“This is a call for action by the public to improve pedestrian/bicycle access to metro stations as envisioned in the comprehensive plan,” Hunter Mill District Planning Commissioner John Carter said when introducing a motion during the commission’s meeting on May 19.

The measure calls for numerous changes, such as:

  • Providing wide sidewalks at intersections within walking distance of transit stations,
  • Making turns on roads tighter at intersections to slow traffic down,
  • Providing a “double ramp” for people with disabilities instead of single ramp that’s currently in use directing pedestrians to the middle of intersections,
  • Avoiding extra turning lanes at intersections with high volumes of pedestrians
  • Providing closely spaced street trees between curb and sidewalk areas to protect pedestrians.

The motion passed, with 10 members voting for it and at-large member Timothy Sargeant, abstaining. Sargeant did not respond to a message seeking comment on why he voted that way.

“Failure to act will cause pedestrian access to continue to be ‘significantly challenged’ and ridership on the metro station to be reduced,” Carter said.

He introduced the motion during the commission’s discussion on whether to approve changes to the mixed-use Reston Gateway development being constructed near the upcoming Reston Town Center Metro station, but he noted that the issues seen there could apply to other locations as well.

Supervisor Walter Alcorn, whose Hunter Mill District includes the Reston Gateway project, agrees that the main crosswalk serving the Reston Town Center station is not pedestrian-friendly.

“The rail project used cookie-cutter designs,” he said, adding that a walkway over the road has been proposed but could be years away from coming to fruition.

When touring the area a couple weeks ago, Alcorn asked the Fairfax County Department of Transportation to identify short-term improvements to occur before the station opens, which isn’t expected to happen until early 2022.

“I want to make sure riders can readily get to the stations on day one and every day thereafter,” he said.

Pedestrian and bicyclist advocacy groups expressed support for the commission’s call for change.

Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling President Bruce Wright says some progress has been made to improve safety, but numerous deficiencies remain. The Greensboro station in Tysons, for example, not only lacks access from Gosnell Road and Westpark Drive, the roads are outright dangerous, he says.

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