A proposal to renovate the Commons in McLean, home of the “Secret Safeway,” and turn it into high-rise apartments was voted down during the McLean Citizens Association (MCA) meeting Wednesday night.
“The property was purchased in October 2000. The owner wanted to do something with it, but APR pulled the plan,” said MCA member Germaine Broussard. The land in question is 19.87 acres of land between Magarity Road, Anderson Road and Colshire Drive and is owned by Commons Investors LLC.
The original proposal was rejected because the number of apartments to be built on the property was considered “too dense, too high and not in following with the comprehensive plan for McLean, Broussard said.
“The developer came in and presented two proposals, and one has been deferred” due to the inclusion of a Metro station, she said. The plan in question, which does not include the Metro station, includes moving the Safeway store on Dartford Drive, called the “Secret Safeway” because it’s hidden from the road, to Magarity Road.
THE DEVELOPER’S PLAN calls for a density of 2.0 floor-to-area ratio (FAR), “which is more than the current density of Tysons Corner proper, which was developed at 1.65 FAR,” she said. FAR is described by MCA member James Robertson as “the ratio of the floor area of an occupied building to the area of the acreage” on which the building is built.
“The current height limit in that area is between 40 and 90 feet, and the developer is asking for between 75 to 95 feet, up to 150 feet in some areas,” Broussard said. “This is all right next to a four-story garage.”
The developer’s plan also calls for three-story garden apartments with 577 units. In addition, she said, this proposal is part of a two-step plan, which the developer refuses to discuss.
“What’s the position of Pimmit Hills?” a neighborhood that would be affected by the development, asked MCA member John Adams.
“They’re against it,” Broussard said. “These apartments are not going to be of the same quality. They’re going to be cracker boxes.”
“There’s a traffic study that the county government is conducting in Tysons, which is another reason to combine the proposals together, but nothing should be approved until the traffic study is done,” said member Wade Smith.
“There is no justification to look at this plan and say it’s a good idea,” said member Tom Moore. “This takes away a buffer zone. It’s the wrong development in the wrong place.”
“I wouldn’t agree that Metro construction should be under way (before the second proposal is unveiled, as planned), that’s not appropriate,” Smith said. “If funding is in place, it’ll get built, but our goal is to make sure they don’t pass this (proposal) and then Metro doesn’t come in.”
Broussard proposed a resolution calling for the proposal to either be presented with both plans as one package at a later date or dismissed altogether unless changes are made that would require the development conform with the current comprehensive plan requirements. The resolution was unanimously approved.