County to Review Civic Place

County to Review Civic Place

Palladium of McLean Goes to Planning Commission Next Week

McLean Planning Committee (MPC) President Dan DuVal has proposed a new four-member committee to improve communication between the McLean Planning Committee and McLean Revitalization Corporation (MRC) and “ensure efficient review of projects.”

DuVal appointed Chris Monek, who represents the McLean Citizens Association on the MPC, and Barbara Soderquist, who represents the McLean Chamber of Commerce, as his two appointees to the committee.

The MRC will provide two representatives, one each from the group of surrounding landowners and one from surrounding homeowners, to meet with Monek and Soderquist.

The 16-member MPC and the 8-member MRC board both have equal representation from four groups: the MCA, the Chamber of Commerce, surrounding landowners, and surrounding homeowners.

DUVAL PROPOSED THE COMMITTEE at an MPC meeting on Aug. 28, after a discussion of a proposed $1 million proffer from Waterford Properties, LLC, which is seeking a rezoning for its “Palladium of McLean” development at Civic Place in downtown McLean.

MPC members had raised questions about the ability of the MRC to monitor the use of Waterford’s $1 million proffer.

The draft escrow agreement says the money would “provide funds for any use that furthers and promotes the McLean Main Street development concept as set forth in the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan, 2000 Edition,” DuVal said.

Early discussions have centered on a parking garage to support pedestrian access to retail stores, offices and restaurants in downtown McLean.

Waterford’s $1 million proffer would have to be applied within the area bounded by Old Dominion Drive, Beverly Road, Ingleside/Tennyson and Whittier Avenues.

MPC MEMBER JIM PEOPLES questioned whether the MRC has the expertise to monitor the use of the money. It is organized as a corporation, while the MPC is an advisory group on revitalization.

“They are no better organized than we are, and I have no expectation they will be,” Peoples said. “The trust issue [has become] an issue because this has not been an open, communicative project,” he said.

“I am concerned about [the MRC’s] capability to do the work.”

MRC Chairman Jack Wilbern acknowledged that “We all have to do better community outreach,” but he defended the MRC as being reliant on volunteers.

“We’ve got a volunteer board,” he said. Is it going to be the best you can do? I built 19 homes [at Blueberry Hill] with volunteers. Did it take too long? Did it cost too much money? Damn straight,” Wilbern said.

But he said involvement of the community is central to the revitalization effort in McLean, and volunteers provide that.

After Peoples expressed his views about the MRC being “the right organization to implement projects, the remainder of the MPC felt comfortable after discussion that the escrow agreement as proposed and drafted was OK,” said DuVal.

At the end of the meeting, Peoples resigned from the MPC, saying his other responsibilities had increased and curtailed the time he has available to serve.

MPC members gave him a round of applause in appreciation of the time he has contributed to the study of Civic Place.

ORIGINALLY PROPOSED for four floors of mixed office and retail, Waterford now prefers to develop the Palladium at Civic Place into five floors, with four floors of residences over retail uses on the first floor, because of demand in the residential market.

But the height of the building will not increase, according to Madison Homes President Russ Rosenberger, the builder, and its footprint will remain the same.

“We now have one story that can be either retail or office, and four that will be residential,” he said.

Since the proposal shifted from office space to residential, most of the redesign has occurred in the four-story wing of the building behind the Firestone Store on Chain Bridge Road, he said.

Other than a more steeply pitched roof in the rest of the development, he said, there are no changes in the elevations that front on Laughlin, Lowell or Emerson Avenues.

Some 12,000 square feet of retail floor space would front on Lowell Avenue opposite McLean Fire Station 1.

The MPC voted unanimously to support Waterford’s proposal, which is scheduled for a vote by the Fairfax County Planning Commission on Sept. 19 and the Board of Supervisors on Sept. 23.

Both those meetings will be televised live on Fairfax Cable Channel 16.