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Mixed-Use Project for Fair Lakes

East Market is a project offering both residential and retail.

For years, the 34 acres of Fairfax County-owned land in the southwest corner of the Fair Lakes Parkway and West Ox Road has been unceremoniously known as Land Bay A.

But it may someday be the home of a mixed-use project — part retail, part residential — called East Market at Fair Lakes. The Peterson Cos. of Fair Lakes is the developer and, after hearing the details recently, the Springfield District/Fairfax Center Land-Use Committee approved the plan unanimously.

"The project was well planned-out and is a nice use of the parcel for the area," said committee chairman Mark Cummings. "The mix of residential and retail is a good fit for that [land]."

The property lies between Galyan's and West Ox Road, and Frank McDermott and Jeff Saxe of The Peterson Cos. explained how the project came about. When the county decided it no longer needed this land, it offered it for sale. Peterson bid $15 million and won.

It's now seeking a proffered-condition amendment from the county because something else was previously approved for this site. Last year, another developer proposed building a Great Indoors home-furnishings store there, plus office buildings. But after the county gave its OK, the plan fell through, so Peterson now needs the original development conditions changed.

East Market at Fair Lakes is a three-part project:

* A retail center oriented to a street, with parking behind it. Proposed near the I-66 side of the property are a grocery store and small, supporting shops — such as a couple restaurants and a coffee shop, along with a plaza where people may sit and relax.

ACROSS THE STREET and fronting on a new street called East Market Drive — connecting from the front of Galyan's to the Fair Lakes Parkway — would be a pedestrian-oriented area with a Main Street feel. Parallel parking would be on both sides, with the retail uses right behind the sidewalk.

* A four-story, residential condo building with elevators and underground parking. The 200-some units would come with one, two or three bedrooms.

* Approximately 200 units of "stacked townhouses" — which are actually two-story condos built above other two-story condos.

The proposal is tentatively scheduled to go before both the county Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, some time in January. McDermott said Peterson would like to begin construction in summer/fall 2004 and have the project open in early to mid 2005.

Seeing how successful retail has been in the Fairfax Center area, said McDermott, "We saw an opportunity for an additional grocery store and small shops." He also noted that the area's population growth was "absolutely" a factor in deciding to build here.

Peterson has also agreed to make some serious road improvements. It will add a second, left-turn lane on the Fair Lakes Parkway, eastbound, for motorists going north on West Ox. At the same location, it will also lengthen the right-turn lane.

FURTHERMORE, at the developer's expense, a traffic light will be installed at the project's entrance from the Fair Lakes Parkway. And several other turn lanes around the property's frontage will either get lengthened or be added.

Afterward, land-use chairman Cummings described the project as "tastefully done." He said the committee's concern was about access and egress issues around the Fair Lakes Parkway and West Ox.

"The turn lanes are already congested, so we asked [county] staff to go back and look at it," said Cummings. "We need to address how we can move traffic along — especially with the additional strain that project will place on that intersection."

The committee also asked Saxe to research the matter and report back to either it or to county staff with his findings. Actually, said Cummings, "These issues have to be addressed on a much larger scale than just this project." And he noted that VDOT and the county are scrutinizing all the intersection points from the Fair Lakes Parkway to the Route 29 overpass at West Ox Road.

He said the study will examine how VDOT rates those intersections, how traffic moves through them now, what the current configuration is for turns there and how VDOT plans to get vehicles through that intersection without having to reconfigure it or make major improvements to it or to the other intersections.

OBTAINING THIS information, said Cummings, is especially important in light of the county's planned, public-safety command center and emergency operations center to be built just off West Ox and the Fairfax County Parkway.

Peterson will also construct a large, noise barrier on I-66 to shield its project from the highway sounds. Furthermore, the buildings will be set back from that noise wall, and landscaping will mitigate the visual impact. McDermott said a portion of that wall will be as high as 34 feet.

Cummings wondered why it needs to be so high, since the topography is lower where the residential units will be built. But, said McDermott, "Given that the buildings are more than 45 feet tall, it's not as if the wall will be towering over them."

Pleased that parking for the retail component would be against the I-66 barrier wall, Cummings said people would "park on the back of the project and walk through a nicely landscaped opening promenade and could then go to the shops on both sides — creating a nice, friendly, storefront environment."

Because of the way East Market is designed, he said, "[The Peterson Cos.] has done a great job buttoning up the congested areas. They thought about how people could walk to the shops and they made it pedestrian-friendly. That's a rarity, anymore."