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Refitting Old Town

Fairfax City Council hears Old Town redevelopment proposals from three commercial development teams.

What would Old Town Fairfax look like with a lively, pedestrian-friendly streetscape? On Tuesday evening, developers before the Fairfax City Council tried to answer that question in their proposals for Old Town redevelopment.

A streetscape in Old Town would need cafes spilling into the street, a fountain in a courtyard, good restaurants, quaint shops and possibly a movie theater.

“The whole idea of our project is to make the sidewalk a place of activity,” said Kathleen Frazier of Frazier Associates, part of the developer team Jaguar Development and JBG Rosenfeld.

In July, the city selected four finalists from the nine proposals submitted for Old Town redevelopment. But several firms joinced forces to try for the oppportunity to revitalize downtown. The teams are Trammel Crow, Walnut Street Development and Jay Donegan; Jaguar Development and JBG Rosenfeld; and Atlantic Realty.

AFTER THE JULY 14 and 15 hearings, each team was asked to create a mixed-use development on two city-owned sites, the North Street parking lot and the Logan-Sipan properties, which the Fairfax Post Office calls home until January 2004. The development would include a parking garage that would serve customers, office and retail workers and library patrons.

Developers would also work with Fairfax County to create a new façade and complete the third floor of the Fairfax City Regional Library.

Copies of their plans will be available at Fairfax City Hall and the Fairfax City Regional Library. A public hearing on these proposals is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 7, with selection of the developer following, said Earl Berner, the city’s director of economic development.

“If we do this right, it can be something we’ll all be proud of,” said developer Jay Donegan.

Donegan was a member of the first team presenting its proposal to the City Council. The Trammel Crow-Walnut Street Development-Jay Donegan proposal would include 90,000 square feet of retail, 40,000 square feet of office space, and 60 condominiums. Buildings would be three stories at the North Street Lot and 2.5 to 3.5 stories on the combined Logan-Sipan lot.

In additional to offering traditional mixed-use, the plan proposed moving the library to the North Street lot and constructing condominiums in the library’s former space. The plan also included a plaza with a fountain.

Fielding questions from council members Jeff Greenfield and Gail Lyon, the team said the project could be constructed in phases, with the residential component the last to be finished. The developers also replied that the parking garage would be built off site, then moved to the city once it was completed. Once there, it could house the construction vehicles.

Presenters assured council that if they worked together, they could find viable national and local tenants for downtown.

"We can go out as a team, and tell them this is a real project," Donegan said.

UP NEXT, the development team from Jaguar Development and JBG Rosenfeld started its presentation with a vision to keep redevelopment consistent with downtown's historic theme. To do that, the development would complement the Federal Classical style of the historic buildings, and include storefronts with wide sidewalks.

"Our challenge is to remember that heritage and build upon that," said Bill Frazier of the Jaguar-JBG Rosenfeld team.

Their proposal for the North Street property would include a ground floor of retail and 2.5 stories, or 65,000 square feet, of residential condominiums.

The Logan-Sipan properties would have a five-level parking garage, and hold 90,000 square feet of retail and 50,000 square feet of office space, with the library staying at its present location. The signature building, on the northwest corner of North Street and University Drive, could have a raised plaza with wider setbacks. Retail could include a bookstore, music store, art galleries or antiques, clothing and fashion retailers, and restaurants.

David Ross, president of Atlantic Realty, introduced the third proposal that the council heard on Tuesday. Unlike the first two proposals, Atlantic Realty would include a hotel in lieu of the residential component, as well as a movie theater.

The four-story, 80,000-square-foot hotel would be located on the North Street property. It would have 150 rooms and 152 parking spaces underneath the building.

DEVELOPMENT AT the Logan-Sipan properties would have 130,000 square feet of office space, 45,000 square feet of retail space, with 50 percent reserved for restaurant facilities, and 35,000 square feet for an eight-screen movie theater that would show independent and foreign films. The development would also include 4,700 square feet of community space. The center of the office and retail space and movie theater would be an inner courtyard.

Like the other proposals, retail could include specialty shops like bookstores or card shops. If the city decided not to proceed with the movie theater, a two-floor retailer like a Crate & Barrel or Barnes & Noble could be put in its place.

Fairfax Mayor Rob Lederer asked how Atlantic Realty's proposal differs from previous failed proposals that the city received, calling for a hotel and movie theater.

Since developers last presented redevelopment plans to the City Council two years ago, Ross replied, the city has stabilized, and chains like Hilton and Marriott have models for smaller hotels. He also said while a mainstream theater would attract too much a traffic, a smaller theater showing independent films would bring a different, smaller crowd. The firm they hired to chart traffic patterns in the area confirmed the possibility for the theater concept, Ross added.