Although local citizens mourned the departure of Southern States last fall, town officials hope the new development set to occur on the beloved site will move Maple Avenue in the direction they want it to head. Showing his plans for "Vienna Marketplace" last Monday before the Vienna Town Council, developer Jay Donaghan presented a proposed development that would be pedestrian-friendly, add some color to Vienna's main street while maintaining the town's aesthetic identity, and add some greenery to the site.
The development subdivides the current building on the 200 block of Maple Avenue East into seven spaces, allowing seven retail tenants to set up shop. The phone service company Nextel Communications and the food establishments Chipotle and Noodles & Co. have already signed leases, while JDC Maple Avenue, LLC, the new owner of the property, is working with three other businesses on pending leases. The last space left, 1,242 square feet, is still up for grabs and may hold a bank branch.
"I feel good about the direction we've taken on the project in terms of mix, in terms of design," said Donaghan, who also developed Main Street Marketplace in Fairfax City.
Several council members agreed with Donaghan's assessment.
"This is a major step forward," said Councilman Al Boudreau, referring to the development's congruence with the town's vision for a pedestrian-friendly Maple Avenue.
Working with the town's Board of Architectural Review, Donaghan's development firm came up with a design for the site that would enhance Vienna's small-town feel. They agreed to keep the existing building's footprint, close one of the four curb cuts currently on the site, use some brick on the building on the outer façade and continue the town landscaping at the front of the property. The building itself will keep the same size and will not increase. Donaghan also hoped to come back to the Council one day to request outside seating, while the Council expressed interest in making an attractive green space at the corner of Maple Avenue and Park Street.
YET DESPITE the general approval of the development by the Council, there were some concerns regarding parking. One site modification request to reduce the number of on-site parking spaces from 72 to 48, with 15 additional spaces at Vienna Presbyterian Church reserved for employees, faced some debate on the Council. By a vote of 5-2, the Council approved the parking reduction request, with Council members Laurie Cole and Vince Olson voting against it. Their concern was the lack of a written agreement with the Safeway grocery store next door to allow customers to park on the Safeway lot if the Vienna Marketplace lot is full. Although Donaghan said he has shown Safeway his plans, has a working with relationship with Safeway on other properties, and has received a response from Safeway saying that it's against corporate policy to make such parking agreements, the dissenting Council members said they preferred a written agreement.
There was also some concern that the development could lose the 15 spaces at Vienna Presbyterian, should the church proceed with its expansion plans.
"Sometimes these merchants feel they're being encroached upon," Olson said.
But the remaining Council members and Vienna mayor Jane Seeman voted for the parking modification, approving the overall vision for the developer's plan.
"This is a venture where you've got to be willing to take some risks," said Councilwoman Maud Robinson.
The other site-plan modification requests were approved unanimously. They were to alter the parking space dimensions from 9 by 20 feet to 9 by 18 feet in the front half of the property, approve the location of the parking facilities requirement, modify the landscaping and tree reduction requirements, and reduce the required number of loading spaces to zero.
Pending county approval of some aspects of the development, Donaghan said he hopes to get the project under way in June.