It has not been a good month for the new owners of the Kings Crossing redevelopment site. First a subcontractor bulldozed over private and County Resource Protection Area land. Now, a Request For Proposal turns up that seeks to turn the site into primarily a residential development rather than the mixed-use dream envisioned.
"I was totally surprised at the content of the RFP. It is not consistent with the vision we have for this site. That vision is a community vision. This is one of the most important sites on Route 1. They [the new owners] knew what the vision was when they purchased the site," said Gerald "Gerry" Hyland, Mount Vernon District supervisor.
"I will not support this RFP. I would sincerely hope the new owners of this site will come forward with a mixed-use plan. Some residential is acceptable but not to the extent this RFP proposes. Hopefully, they will put something on the table we all can support," he said.
The RFP in question was created by JPI Development Company of Vienna, a regional partner with Dallas, Texas- based Archon Corporation in the development of the Kings Crossing site just south of the intersection of Route 1 and South Kings Highway. It presently contains a Michaels craft store and Chuck E. Cheese restaurant.
UNDER THE TERMS of the RFP the site would be developed to contain the following:
* 300 condominium flats (two buildings); wood construction on an elevated concrete podium, over two levels of parking, one at grade and one below grade. The plans call for one- and two-bedroom units.
* 76 stacked townhomes: There is some flexibility on unit sizes.
* 24 townhouses: Units can be anywhere from 24' to 32' wide by 40' deep.
Now called "Jefferson At Kings Crossing" by JPI, the description of the site at the top of the RFP reads: "Fantastic multi-product opportunity located at the rapidly redeveloping Route 1 corridor ... This mixed-use master planned community will feature various residential uses, retail space and a large amount of green space. Residents living here will be in close proximity to Old Town Alexandria, only three miles away."
Although reference is made to the mixed-use intent for the site, no element of the RFP deals with any retail/commercial development. The only supplemental amenities referred to in the RFP is a reference to the site's proximity to elementary, middle and high schools, a standard part of residential development RFPs when applicable.
The accompanying graphic shows a small strip of potential commercial space immediately adjacent to Route 1 between McDonald's and Pizza Hut restaurants. Additional residential design is shown behind the existing commercial properties along Route 1 south from Michaels parking lot to Fairview Drive.
"This is just the same old, same old. Residential design all crammed together for a quick profit," said Dana Kauffman, Lee District supervisor.
"It would be one thing if they (JPI/Archon) were trying to propose a unique mixed-use design wrapped around significant residential to help the corridor. Then, maybe, the community would consider taking a deep breath and agree to the change. But, this doesn't even rate taking a deep breath," Kauffman said.
HOMEOWNERS MOST AFFECTED by any redevelopment of the site are those living in the Spring Bank community along Fairview Drive. It was several of those residents most directly affected by the bulldozing operations in late July, including David Dale, president, Spring Bank Neighborhood Association.
Upon viewing the RFP, Dale said, "It would seem that there is essentially no retail component, just new homes. I fail to see how this residential-only plan would serve as a focal point for anything except additional traffic along Richmond Highway.
"This area needs redevelopment that will attract quality businesses and retail into the new Kings Crossing Town Center. It should not just provide housing for people who would then leave to go shopping or seek entertainment elsewhere."
Dale cited language from the Fairfax County Comprehensive Land Use Plan as follows: "Existing conditions present an opportunity for a well-designed, mixed-use project that will serve as the focal point and core area for the Penn Daw Community Business Center. Residential uses should be located toward the middle and rear ... in order to take advantage of the visual and passive recreational amenity provided by the adjacent stream valley area."
Dale explained that it is the community's desire to have the area containing Quander Brook "a canyon, and large trees, to remain undeveloped and saved to become the first and only neighborhood park in the area." It was this area that the bulldozer invaded.
"We have envisioned the site (Kings Crossing) as 70 to 80 percent commercial/retail and only 20 to 30 percent residential. We have been working with VDOT to develop access between Penn Daw retail and Kings Crossing retail. We don't need much more residential. What is needed is much more retail. This will encourage further revitalization of Route 1," Dale said.
He also questioned JPI's heading at the top of the RFP referring to the site as "Jefferson At Kings Crossing." Dale said, "They have a lot of nerve calling this Jefferson at Kings Crossing. If it happens, there will be no Kings Crossing."
Martin Tillett, a Dale neighbor on Fairview Drive, said at the time of the bulldozer incident, "I think it's [the site] only going to be minimal commercial/retail and a lot of new homes." Upon hearing of the RFP, he said, "We don't know who to trust anymore. We thought we had a stake in this."
Tillett reiterated his support for the concept of a true mixed-use development. "To us revitalization is to be able to walk to shopping and entertainment. We need to get away from being so car dependent. The citizens in the community are being ignored. Everyone needs to sit at the table together," he said.
THAT OPPORTUNITY MAY come Sept. 13 when the Spring Bank Community Association holds its scheduled meeting at Groveton Baptist Church. "We are expecting someone from the development company to present design plans [options] at our monthly meeting," Dale said.
In response to that invitation, which residents hope will also address corrective measures to the bulldozer defoliation, Greg Lamb, senior vice president, JPI, said, "JPI is in the process of putting together a meeting with all the stakeholders."
David Paul, an Archon local director, based in Washington, D.C., referred all RFP questions to Lamb. "It was JPI that put out the RFP, not us," he said.
Lamb stressed, "This is a fluid process. It is a very good public process. There's plenty of time to develop the final plans. This [Kings Crossing] has the earmarks of a very good project. We at JPI believe in the process to meet the needs of all the stakeholders." Lamb maintained that the RFP that leaked out was an "internal document only. There are many plans we will be looking at. We have spoken with Hyland and community leaders to discuss all the possibilities," he said.
When asked why the present RFP was even developed knowing the expressed desires of community leaders and stakeholders alike for a predominantly mixed-use plan as opposed to one overwhelming titled toward residential, "We have to consider all the possibilities," Lamb said.
"We have to design and develop a plan that is acceptable. We need to start the process that the community agrees with," Lamb said. He also expressed the hope that the release of this RFP would not adversely affect arriving at a mutual consensus for the development of the site.
“It (RFP) is only a small part of a very large plan. It is only one approach. We believe very strongly in the Fairfax County approach to development and we will follow that approach," he said.
In addition to meeting with the Spring Bank Association on Sept. 13, Lamb said, "We have set up meetings with various stakeholders." However, he would not identify times, dates or groups.
ONE STAKEHOLDER GROUP that has been involved in the Kings Crossing process since the beginning is the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation [SFDC]. "It would be premature for SFDC to comment on a conceptual plan prepared for internal use. Once it is officially made public there will be ample time to comment," said Richard F. "Rick" Neel, president, SFDC, when questioned about the RFP.
"SFDC intends to be an active participant to foster consensus. The Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan already incorporates a vision for that site. And, it's a vision the community has bought into," he said.