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Fairfax Towne Center: More Retail, Condos

If a proposal to bring more retail stores plus condos is approved, the Fairfax Towne Center will eventually have a new look. Instead of seeing a parking lot straight ahead, motorists driving into the shopping center will be looking at a five-story building.

Representatives of developer Lincoln Property Co. of Herndon presented details of their plan at the Dec. 6 meeting of the Springfield District/Fairfax Center Land-Use Committee. The mixed-use development would arise on the existing 3-acre surface parking lot at the northwest corner of the intersection of West Ox Road and Monument Drive.

"It was previously planned for office use — two office buildings," said attorney Keith Martin, representing Lincoln Property Co. "But the APR [Area Plans Review] Task Force wanted more retail and residential uses there, and Lincoln said it wanted to do it."

The building's first floor would contain 20,000 square feet of retail space oriented to the shopping center. The four floors above it would consist of 140,000 square feet of multi-family residential space. Planned are 171 one- and two-bedroom condos, including eight affordable dwelling units (ADUs), with underground parking.

This parking area would be located in the back of the building, along with a courtyard. Lincoln hopes to break ground in 2007 so the condos could be built by 2008. When the condos are completely, their owners will be able to splash and swim in a pool on top of the building's parking garage.

"There's a significant plaza and landscaping plan," said Martin. "And we'll have continuous pedestrian connections from the nearby Fairmont condos to the shopping center." What's approved for that site now, he said, are a pair of 10- or 12-story office buildings. So, said Martin, "The traffic implications on Monument Drive would have been humongous."

Aaron Schreiber of Fairfax County staff said Lincoln's plan makes for a less-intensive use of the shopping center. He said staff focused on any possible impact on the existing condos to the rear of the shopping center, as well as whether the approximately 270 surface parking spaces would be replaced.

After doing so, he said, staff concluded that it has "no significant problems" with this application. He said the existing parking garage is presently "under-used" and would easily be able to absorb the displaced parking. Schreiber said it contains 800 spaces and, added Martin, "People will just have to get used to using it."

Schreiber said further development had long been planned for the surface parking area, "so these parking spaces were always going to go. And there'll still be 100 extra spaces even when [the new building] is built." Then, said Schreiber, the shopping center will contain 1,532 spaces.

SHOPPING-CENTER access would still be provided from Monument Court, a private street behind the Safeway loading area, so Schreiber said that spot would have to be "reconfigured" to accommodate the new building and vehicles going to and from it.

Land-use committee Chairman Mark Cummings noted that, currently, the movie-theater back lot always fills up and people stop in front of the building to let people off. "Is there a way to allow people to drop off kids there without blocking the lane of traffic?" he asked.

"Not without cars stacking up there," said Martin. He had no information about the type of retail stores expected there. He said Lincoln will construct the building and its residential component, but "we'll let the retail people parcel it up and lease it out."

Schreiber said Lincoln has proffered a "substantial contribution" to the Fairfax County Park Authority toward a monument and signage for the nearby Battlefield Park. That pleased committee member and historian Charlotte Ward, who also liked the building concept of retail on the bottom and residential on top

Member Jeff Saxe suggested a piece of architecture be placed in the plaza as an attractive element, and Martin said they'd consider it. Cummings also asked if Lincoln could work with the Virginia Department of Transportation on the timing of the West Ox exit light because "traffic backs up there."

The committee unanimously approved the building proposal, which goes to the Fairfax County Planning Commission on Feb. 1. "When people come into the shopping center off West Ox, it's the first thing they'll see back there," said committee member Fred Bailey. "You have an opportunity to do something special."