A proposed Marriott Residence Inn on Old Keene Mill Road in Springfield is moving toward an amendment to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan that would allow for the hotel chain to open its third hotel in the area.
Marriott has signed the contract on the land, and the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning has scheduled a pair of public hearings in advance of crafting a plan amendment that would lead to more dense zoning in the Springfield Revitalization District.
"I see it as positive, as long as we get the (plan) language right," said Paul Gagnon, chair of the Lee District Land Use Committee, which considered the Marriott plan at its April meeting. Gagnon said his committee was "received very positively," and that he was optimistic about the planned development.
"We know Marriott, and we know their work before in Springfield," he said "The last time, they listened to the citizens and land use committee, and we ended up with the Courtyard (by Marriott), which has superb architecture."
THE AREA in question is a 1.2-acre parcel of land located north of Old Keene Mill Road between Amherst Avenue and Backlick Road, east of the Amherst Avenue bridge. It was formerly the site of a 6,000 square foot Houlihan's restaurant, and is zoned C-6 for commercial retail. The plan amendment would open the door for zoning that would allow the hotel to be built, along with an external parking structure to support it. The area is Land Unit A of the Commercial Revitalization District in Springfield, one of several around the county that have different plan language to allow for development that would improve economic vitality there.
Marriott legal representative Dave Lasso said earlier this year that the company was looking to "build on the success of the other facilities" in Springfield — a Town Place Suites and a Courtyard by Marriott. The building's designs are still in the conceptual phase, but Gagnon said he hoped for an "urban, pedestrian-friendly" building that was similar in tone to the Courtyard by Marriott.
"We have a chance to install a first-rate piece of architecture," said Gagnon. "The hotel industry is coming back big time, and it's a perfect place for a business to utilize."
According to Nancy-jo Manney, executive director of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, hotels in Springfield could provide a support system for further retail growth.
"Hotels specifically support the residents and the business in the community. You live here, Grandma and Grandpa can come and stay. You work here, your out-of-town vendors and clients can stay where you are located, versus having your guests commute quite a distance," she said. That's where the hotels come into play."
The Department of Planning and Zoning has already done a study of the site and recommended it for a plan amendment. Marriott plans to build a 110,000-square-foot facility, with around 165 rooms on five or six stories, and both above ground and below ground parking.
According to Gagnon, the amendment to the county Plan could be a positive, despite the fact that it would lead to more dense zoning.
"The old Houlihan's site is a very problematic site, so this is a win for the community," he said. "Marriott's going to do really good there, and it takes care of that horrible spot there." Gagnon added that the Land Use Committee has handed off to Central Springfield Area Revitalization Council the task of negotiating for certain design elements, such as a plaza or fountain that encourages gathering for the community. A public hearing on the matter before the Fairfax County Planning Commission is set for Wednesday, May 4, at 8:15 p.m., and before the Board of Supervisors on Monday, May 23, at 4 p.m.