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12-Stories at Dunn Loring Metro?

Retail, residential and parking would be added to Dunn Loring/Merrifield Metro Station.

What is now a 15-acre parking lot will become a mixed-use development with 15-story buildings under a proposal from Trammell Crow Residential development.

“We’re trying to fulfill the community vision for the area,” said Mark Looney, attorney for the developer. Looney was speaking at a meeting of the Providence District Council on Nov. 14 about the proposal on, currently Metro’s parking lot. ABout 30 people attended.

On the one side of Merilee Drive, north of Prosperity, plans call for three separate residential buildings with about 720 condominium or apartment units with ground level retail. One building is planned to be four stories tall while two others along Gallows Road will be 150 feet tall.

On the street level of the parking garage on the other side of Merilee Drive stores would line an extended Merilee Drive. Metro parking would be stacked over the stores. Plans call for a free-standing retail building as well for a total of 80,000-85,000 square feet of retail space.

The plan calls for reshaping the existing Metro parking, now on roughly seven acres along the northern edge of the 15-acre property, south of the Dunn Loring station. Metro’s parking lot, which is currently all ground-level parking, would change into a parking garage. The plan would add 500 spaces to Metro customers, bringing the total to 1,855.

Metro’s bus loop and Kiss and Ride facilities would be separated. The bus loop will be reconfigured, but will be in essentially its current location. The Kiss and Ride will be moved to the west of the bus loop, under the parking.

While this means the kiss and ride will be further (about 400 feet), people and buses won’t be sharing the same space anymore. “Yes, we’ve added distance from the Metro, but we’ve made it a safer environment,” said Chad DuBeau of Trammell Crow.

Metro owns the property. It will continue to own its seven-acre parking lot, and will sell Trammell Crow the other eight acres for their project. Metro will lease the retail space under the parking garage to Trammel Crow for 60 years.

DuBeau said construction will be phased in such a way that there will not be any reduction in the number of available parking spots for Metro riders.

AREA RESIDENTS peppered the two men with questions about parking, pedestrian access and traffic flow.

Parking will meet the county requirements of 1.6 spaces per unit for the residential buildings, DuBeau said. Pedestrian access will be maintained by a series of sidewalks and will incorporate crosswalks on Gallows and Prosperity. There will be more vehicle access points than are currently available.

Fred Gladeck of the Dover Park Condo Association questioned Metro’s ability to handle the number of new passengers the project would generate. “You’re going to be dumping even more people onto Metrorail, or as I call it Metrofail, and they can’t handle it now,” he said.

The plan is designed to create what the Comprehensive Plan envisioned, Looney said, and that plan does not take Metro capacity into account. Additionally, Looney noted that the problem with Metro overcrowding typically happens during rush hour, where this plan strives to make the area used all day.

Becky Cate, chair of the council asked why there is no stormwater management facility on the site. The Comprehensive Plan, she said, mandates that such facilities be placed on site.

Since the entire area is currently pavement, DuBeau said, the project will not add to the impervious surface. Therefore, county law exempts the project from stormwater management requirements, since they won’t make things worse.

However, he said that the developer is currently studying using “low-impact” development techniques that would reduce the amount of impervious surface, and is considering implementing some filtration systems to at least treat the water that runs off the site.

DuBeau is presenting the proposal to neighborhood groups to gather feedback about the design, he said.

Community members cited other safety concerns. Although police have made an arrest, residents noted a recent string of assaults in the area.

DuBeau sympathized with the residents and said that the developers would add ample lighting to help mitigate safety concerns.

The proposal, Looney said, is still in its early stages, and has not yet been formally accepted by the County’s Department of Planning and Zoning. At this stage, no dates have yet been set for public hearings on the project.

Time, however is a factor. Metro has a clause which mandates that Trammel Crow break ground on the project within 22 months, which DuBeau said means the fall of 2007.