Several years ago, a developer proposed building a Marlo Furniture store in Chantilly and creating an entire commercial site around it. Fairfax County approved the plan, but years passed and it never got built.
Fast forward to recent times and a mixed-use development called Chantilly Crossing on that same spot at Route 50 and Lee Road. It's at the southwest corner of Routes 28 and 50, near the future National Air and Space Museum Annex. Again, the county Board of Supervisors gave the green light for construction of hotels, restaurants and other businesses there.
The proposal included two hotels, two anchor stores — Target and Costco, several restaurants, a recreational facility, a drive-through bank, plus a service station with a quick-food store and a carwash. Willow Springs Towing also planned to set up shop there. Initially, Home Depot was to have opened there, but pulled out when it couldn't get the leasing deal it wanted and was then replaced by Costco.
Trouble is, that's only one of the continual kaleidoscope of changes that have been proposed for Chantilly Crossing in the past year or so. The developer, Starwood Ceruzzi — a national shopping-center developer — has continually changed its mind about what it wants to put into this commercial center, steadily chipping away at the whole concept.
The only hotel that actually got built there was the Extended StayAmerica. Then the developer asked the county's permission to replace one of its proposed restaurants with a third hotel so a 75,000-square-foot Marriott SpringHill Suites could arise there.
Now, Starwood Ceruzzi proposes yet another change — jettisoning one of the already-approved hotels in favor of a Marlo Furniture store — bringing everything back to square one, where things began years ago. County staff is recommending denial, and members of the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) Land-Use Committee weren't thrilled, either, when they heard the news at their Oct. 15 meeting.
Attorney Art Walsh said the developer couldn't find any other suitable, 60,000-square-foot location for the furniture store. He also said the developer was having trouble marketing the hotel because it wasn't visible from Route 50.
"But that didn't seem to be a selling argument for us," said WFCCA Chairman Jim Katcham. "How many people would come to see the Air and Space museum and drive around to find a hotel?" he asked. "Most people book a hotel in advance."
He said county staff recommended denial of the proposal because, when that site was originally planned, the property was supposed to be built around hotel, restaurant and recreation uses to serve the Air and Space museum. The WFCCA agreed with staff.
"A furniture store doesn't compliment the museum in any way," said Katcham. Besides, he added, "There's more space for retail [elsewhere] on the site, and they should move the Marlo near the Target and Costco. But they want smaller stores there, instead."
Another bone of contention with staff is that, in the original plan, retail uses there were supposed to be south of an Environmental Quality Corridor on the property. The Marlo store would be north of it.
The bottom line, said the WFCCA's Jim Hart, is that "the property was supposed to be tourist-oriented" and staff believes that adding a furniture store there would be "too much strip-type retail" on that site. Said Hart: "This is one of our few opportunities to have something special and different" that would be compatible with the museum.
The county Planning Commission heard the issue last Wednesday, Oct. 16, but Sully District Planning Commissioner Ron Koch deferred decision until Nov. 20, the day after WFCCA will vote on it. "We're not quite sure if a furniture store would be appropriate there," he said. "Usually, people visiting the Air and Space Museum don't buy furniture to take home with them."