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I-66 trail map near Vienna (via VDOT)

Fairfax County is looking for $7.3 million to help create two links for the upcoming I-66 trail.

The county’s Board of Supervisors gave the go-ahead on Tuesday (Jan. 25) for its transportation director to apply for the funds via the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.

One of the links is a 5,000-foot-long cycle track along Country Creek Road/Virginia Center Boulevard and a 10-foot-wide paved path along Sutton Road near the Vienna Metro station. The connection would run from the Nutley Street interchange to Blake Lane.

“Funding will assist in completing a high-quality, long-distance active transportation route along the I-66 corridor, conveniently connecting a large segment of Fairfax County population to transit facilities, employment centers, recreational destinations, and other jurisdictions,” county staff said in the board meeting package.

It’s part of the I-66 trail and the application serves as an integral connection, Fairfax County Department of Transportation spokesperson Robin Geiger said.

FCDOT confirmed the project had been unsuccessfully submitted for funding from NVTC before. It previously received a score of 47 out of 100, and the transit group advanced higher-scoring transit proposals.

Geiger said it’s common for funding requests to be renewed, though.

The trail is part of a package of projects that the board sent to NVTC for consideration in the fifth round of its I-66 Commuter Choice program, which funds transit and capital improvement projects in the corridor using highway toll revenues.

Another NVTC funding application the county agreed to seek was $4.3 million for an I-66 trail segment that would cover a 2,750-foot-long portion from the Monument Drive commuter parking garage to the West Ox Road transit center.

Additionally, the board approved seeking $1.2 million in funding to help continue funding Express Route 698 connecting the Vienna and Pentagon Metro stations and $2.2 million to increase bus service on that route.

Funding decisions for the fiscal year 2023-2024 I-66 Commuter Choice program could be announced in May from NVTC, followed by the Commonwealth Transportation Board in June. Virginia’s fiscal year starts on July 1.

Photo via VDOT

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Developer Pulte Homes’ five planned buildings for MetroWest (courtesy Pulte Homes)

Mixed-use development in the MetroWest community near the Vienna Metro station is a step closer to becoming a reality.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission voted unanimously on Wednesday (Dec. 8) to recommend approval of developer Pulte Homes’ applications to construct five residential buildings with 480 units and 35,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space.

The plans also include at least 35% open space, a childcare center, a residents-only pool and pool house, a 1,150 square-foot community center with WiFi and meeting space on the ground floor of building 16, and a community park that will be open to the public.

Set for a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors public hearing on Jan. 25, the proposal is expected to revive efforts to bring retail and other amenities to MetroWest more than a decade after the development was originally approved.

“This application is a welcome catalyst for action and will help us realize the [Fairfax County] Comprehensive Plan’s vision for mixed-use, transit-oriented development at the Vienna Metro station,” Providence District Commissioner Phil Niedzielski-Eichner said.

Submitted to the county last December, Pulte’s proposed changes to its development plans and proffers primarily concern the planned daycare center, which was relocated and will now have an enrollment cap of 150 children, up from 100.

The developer also sought to remove a restriction that limited it to a certain number of residences until buildings with non-residential uses are also put in place.

Since the original MetroWest plans were approved in 2006, the 56-acre site has gained 860 dwelling units in the form of townhouses, senior housing in The Atrium, and The Providence, an assisted living facility that opened in March.

However, the plan’s non-residential elements stalled amid a changing real estate market and disputes between Pulte and fellow developer CRC Companies, which is responsible for building a town center on the north side of the development.

County staff said at a public hearing on Nov. 3 that the limit on residential construction was put in place after previous promises of mixed-use development around the Vienna Metro station failed to materialize.

Niedzielski-Eichner said on Wednesday that Pulte has now committed to constructing at least one building with non-residential uses before starting the second of two remaining fully residential structures.

“We’re holding the 4th building to accommodate what we thought was a reasonable request from the Planning Staff,” DLA Piper land-use lawyer Antonio Calabrese, who is representing Pulte, told Tysons Reporter by email. “The County wants to be certain that we have completed the attractive MetroWest swimming pool, children’s play area and large courtyard prior to final occupancy of our 4-building land bay.”

Pulte continued revising its proffer conditions up to the day of the planning commission vote to address lingering concerns about the retail, pedestrian accessibility, the daycare center, and electric vehicle infrastructure.

According to a 16-page memo from Pulte and markups of the proffer agreement that Fairfax County’s planning department shared with Tysons Reporter, the additional commitments include:

  • At least 5,000 square feet of non-residential space on the ground floors of buildings 16, 17, and 18 must be “Type 1” uses, including retail sales, food, financial, and personal service establishments
  • Parallel parking spaces and tree wells designed with accessibility in mind
  • A 9,500 square-foot cap on the daycare center
  • Priority access to the daycare for MetroWest residents with an exclusive grand opening, additional marketing, and a waitlist of interested, qualified families
  • An increase in parking outfitted for electric vehicle charging from 2% to 4%

The proffers will all be part of the formal proffer agreement presented to the Board of Supervisors in January, the county planning department says.

Niedzielski-Eichner also reported that negotiations to resolve ongoing conflicts between Pulte and CRC “appear on track to finding solutions that will facilitate the full restart of MetroWest development.”

CRC filed site plans for two of its five planned buildings on Aug. 31 that are under review by county staff. The developer has said it anticipates breaking ground in mid-2022.

“We’ve held very fruitful discussions with CRC and look forward to continuing our productive collaboration,” Calabrese said. “Both entities have a vested interest in completing their high-quality plans within MetroWest.”

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The owner of the Pan Am Shopping Center wants to overhaul the aging strip mall, potentially turning it into the latest effort to bring mixed-use development to the Vienna Metro station area.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed county staff yesterday (Tuesday) to evaluate a possible change to the comprehensive plan guidance for the shopping center at the southeast corner of Nutley Street and Route 29.

Property owner Federal Realty has expressed interest in working with the surrounding community on a redevelopment concept for Pan Am, according to Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik, who introduced the request for a review.

“This motion is intended to allow the planning process to be a platform for the property owner to work with staff and community stakeholders to consider how evolving the center to a more mixed-use environment could enhance the retail experience, ensure the long-term viability of the commercial center, and advance County objectives,” Palchik said in the board matter.

According to county land records, the Pan Am Shopping Center was built in 1979, and Federal Realty bought the 1 million square-foot parcel for over $21 million in 1993.

The center still boasts Safeway as an anchor, along with CVS, Microcenter, and Michael’s as major tenants, but it has seen a few notable departures over the past couple of years.

The former Baja Fresh space has been vacant since the restaurant closed in January 2019, and a standalone building that had been occupied by a Capital One bank and McDonald’s since the shopping center opened is now empty after the fast-food chain left earlier this year.

Most recently, the Chinese eatery Lo’s Restaurant closed permanently last week after switching to delivery-only service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While specific details likely won’t take shape for a while, Federal Realty says its goal with the redevelopment is to turn the Pan Am Shopping Center into “an amenitized and vibrant neighborhood.”

“We are constantly looking at ways to evolve our properties to best meet the needs of the communities that they serve,” Ramsey Meiser, Federal Realty’s senior vice president of development said. “Pan Am’s convenient location and close proximity to the Vienna Metro Station provides an opportunity to create an environment that  brings residential living to an already successful retail mix. We look forward to working with Supervisor Palchik, County staff and the community to make this vision a reality.”

Palchik says she expects any redevelopment to consider the area’s transportation capacity and potential impacts on existing neighborhoods, along with opportunities to provide more bicycle and pedestrian amenities and open space.

“Additionally the provision of housing would need to serve a variety of income levels,” she told Tysons Reporter by email. “It is my further expectation that the planning process will need to have robust community engagement.”

According to Palchik’s office, the comprehensive plan review doesn’t have a specific timeline yet, but Federal Realty is expected to begin the community engagement process before submitting a formal rezoning application.

The news of a possible Pan Am Shopping Center redevelopment comes as the Fairfax County Planning Commission is scheduled to vote tonight (Wednesday) on a proposal for five residential buildings with 35,000 square feet of commercial uses in the MetroWest neighborhood to the north.

If the plan is approved, developer Pulte Homes says it will finally be able to introduce retail around the Vienna Metro station, where attempts at mixed-use development have long floundered.

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