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Hotel Boom

Marriott and Hilton look to future tourism expansion.

Two and possibly three hotel projects are on the table for Richmond Highway to serve an anticipated escalating future tourist influx triggered by a National U.S. Army Museum and a bulging Fort Belvoir personnel complement.

Tuesday afternoon Marriott Hotels presented a preliminary site plan to Woodlawn Plantation and Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland for an anticipated 150-room Residence Inn facility to be constructed in the vicinity of the present site of the Woodlawn Road Gate onto Fort Belvoir. The present Woodlawn Road Gate would be relocated south of its present site, according to Hyland.

Further stimulating Route 1 revitalization efforts, Hilton Hotels is considering the possibility of two facilities on the east side of "The Highway" across from the IMP Building. One facility would be located at the previous site of the Future Farmers of America, now occupied by Agape Christian Academy, and a second at the site of the discount shoe store adjacent to the Shell Oil Company station, just north of the intersection of routes 1 and 235.

"It's a win/win for everyone and a real plus for our revitalization efforts for the Route 1 corridor," Hyland said. "However, both proposals will require Out-of-Turn Plan Amendments to the Comprehensive Plan." Hilton's proposal exceeds height restrictions and both corporate proposals require a change to the zoning classifications applicable to the land parcels under consideration.

DURING A RECENT MEETING of the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens' Association Hyland unveiled the dual proposals but only received the Marriott site proposal this week. Details have been restricted by Marriott pending their meeting with Woodlawn Plantation, according to Hyland.

Marriott's anticipated location is directly across Richmond Highway from the planned site for the U.S. Army Museum. It presently contains an array of mature trees which would complement its proximity to Woodlawn Plantation, an element of the National Historic Trust.

"I would assume that Marriott would take a long-term lease with Woodlawn and the Trust. But, I'm not sure of any of those details at this time," Hyland said.

As part of the overall deal, Woodlawn has given up part of its land along Mill Road in a land swap on the south side. This will enable Fort Belvoir and the Army to build a four-lane replacement to the closed Woodlawn Road without going behind the IMP Building.

Previously The Army had agreed only to build a two-lane road replacement although they had acquired enough right-of-way for a wider thoroughfare. The primary stumbling block to adding the two additional lanes was money.

This was solved last week when Congress passed H.R.3, The Transportation Equity Act. It included an appropriation of $7,080,000 for the proposed Woodlawn Road replacement through Fort Belvoir, earmarked for the two additional lanes.

The legislation also included $3,242,000 for Richmond Highway Corridor Transit Improvement Projects. This will also aid the anticipated future tourist crunch and personnel buildup, estimated at an additional 18,000 plus, at Fort Belvoir as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure Report.

HILTON'S PLANS envision the acquisition of "three parcels of property on or in the vicinity of Richmond Highway in the Woodlawn area," according to a proposal from Landmark Realty Corporation to Hyland dated July 27. They are considering a "full service Hilton Hotel and a Hampton Inn type hotel" on two of the parcels.

Landmark is also proposing that a third parcel, of nearly six acres located at 5362 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway (Rt. 235), "be rezoned to a residential density that would allow for a 65-unit townhouse facility," according to Bob White, president, Landmark Realty Corporation.

Acknowledging that all three parcels are in the Woodlawn Historic District in his letter to Hyland, White stated, "Although we understand that the current zoning on the two Richmond Highway properties will allow for a hotel, we would need a waiver of the current height restriction [believed to be 35 feet] for the Woodlawn Historic District in order for a hotel to be built to a feasible height."

He further explained, "We are projecting the Hilton Hotel would be at least six stories and possibly as high as eight stories [approximately 80 feet]." White also informed Hyland that they [Landmark] were negotiating with "two other different hotel chains." He did not reveal who they were.

"The land Agape Academy now occupies was changed at the time Future Farmers of America vacated. Now they are requesting it be changed back to residential. This will have to be run back through the community for their input," Hyland said. "I've given the letter to our county planning staff for review and comment."

ALL THREE HILTON PARCELS and the Marriott site are located within Mount Vernon District. Lee District's boundary for that section of Richmond Highway stops at Frye Road.

In addition to the Agape Academy site, the approximate size and locations of the other two are 1.75 acres at 8847 Richmond Highway, currently occupied by The Shoe Store, and 6.6 acres of unimproved land adjacent to it, according to White's letter.

In addition to the possible Hilton Hotels facilities, White indicated "the interested parties may also want to put in a restaurant next to the hotel(s)." Access to the proposed townhouse development is envisioned as a "private road into the community" utilizing the existing entrance to and from Mount Vernon Highway.

In addition to these activities, a long-standing consideration of transforming the IMP Building into a hotel property remains alive and well, according to Hyland. "And now that Mill Road can be made into a four-lane road without having to curve behind the IMP Building that site takes on added appeal," he said.