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Is Kings Crossing Star-Crossed?

Site of planned redevelopment could remain a commercial strip.

Spring Bank Community Association and JPI Development Partners, Inc., remain well apart from reaching an agreement on the future configuration of the 11-plus acre plot known as Kings Crossing. That was the message to members during the association's recent meeting at Groveton Baptist Church.

Since that meeting, a new element has entered the struggle to develop the site that stretches between Shields Avenue and Fairview Drive. Archon, owner of the plot containing Chuck E Cheese and formerly Michael's Arts & Crafts, has now rented out the space occupied by the latter, 6303 Richmond Highway, to National Wholesale Liquidators.

"We recently met again with Gregg Lamb (JPI senior vice president) and although the meeting went well there was no effort on their part to change anything. We reiterated our (SBCA) proposal and they reiterated theirs," said David Dale, association president.

However, there was apparently no mention at that meeting of the impending lease of the Michael's site to NWL. Martin Tillet, an association member who attended the meeting with Lamb, raised a question about large truck trailers being parked in the parking area in front of Michael's. There was no recognition about their ownership or purpose.

THE PRIMARY STUMBLING block to JPI bringing a development proposal before the Fairfax County Planning Commission is the percent of land to be devoted to residential and commercial development. Both the association and Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland originally wanted the site to be developed with 50 percent commercial/retail and 50 percent residential.

JPI and Archon have insisted from the beginning, nearly two years ago, that it should be developed as overwhelmingly residential with only a small percentage commercial/retail. Since then the parties have been negotiating percentages back and forth.

During the association's June 2005 meeting Dale revealed that JPI was still proposing only 16.6 percent be commercial/retail while residential remained at 83.4 percent. As of SBCA's October 17 meeting JPI had brought the commercial/retail space up to 25 percent "if they build as planned," according to Dale.

"Our side has told them if they don't come up to at least 25 percent commercial/retail don't even bring it (the plot plan) in for consideration," Dale said.

JPI has set aside more open space, increased outdoor recreation areas and reduced the number of residential units. The revised plot plan is showing approximately 872 residential units, according to Dale.

"If we can not reach an agreement, they (JPI/Archon) may decide to pull out or JPI, which is primarily a residential developer, may pass off the commercial development portion to another firm," Dale said.

ASKED IF THE LEASING of the Michael's property to NWL would further slow the development process, Hyland said, "Nothing could happen at this site for at least a year anyway from a timing standpoint. That's how long its going to take to get the approval through the planning process."

Presently NWL has a one-year lease with a month-to-month clause that can be renewed beyond the present year cut off, according Hyland. Attempts to reach David Paul, Archon's representative, to verify NWL's lease arrangement were unsuccessful. As stated in their recent advertising flyer, circulated throughout the area, NWL was to open for business on Tuesday, Oct. 25.

Archon decided to lease the vacated Michael's space in order to bring in some revenue due to the elongated negotiations, according to Lamb. "They need to achieve some type of income because they've put a lot of money into this project. We all thought we'd be well underway by now," Lamb said.

"Their (Archon) patience is running thin. One of their options is just to renovate the existing center with permanent new tenants, that could also include Chuck E Cheese. Archon also paid for the relocation of Michael's which has added to their costs," he said.

"There are a variety of options that don't necessarily include redeveloping the site as we had planned. We have worked very hard to make the match between residential and commercial/retail requested of us," Lamb said.

"With our latest plan we have reached the 25 percent level for commercial/retail as well as greatly increasing the open space. We have also placed parking underground rather than in parking garages. This also has added significantly to the cost. We are excited about this new plan although we have not yet satisfied all the stakeholders," he said.

ONE OF THOSE stakeholders "not yet satisfied" is the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation. In a Sept. 19 letter to JPI, authorized by the organization's Board of Directors, Richard F. "Rick" Neel, president, SFDC, verified "we expressed our objections to their (JPI) most recent development plan."

He explained, "It is still primarily residential and not in compliance with the commercial plans for Kings Crossing. However, SFDC remains committed to working with everyone for the development of Kings Crossing."

Included in the new plan is a neighborhood park on a portion of the Fairchild property immediately to the rear of the Michael's/Chuck E Cheese site. The creation of this park has been a priority item with the association from the beginning as something that will benefit existing residents as well as those who reside in the anticipated new units.

Another element of the overall design calls for the inclusion of the present Penn Daw Mobile Home Park into the Kings Crossing development. Archon has an option on the present mobile home park site located on the north side of Shields Avenue.

Although shown as an integral part of the Kings Crossing housing element, the site has not been formally purchased by Archon at this time, according to Lamb. "Before, that can happen we need to have some indication that, in fact, there will be a development," Lamb said.

"We will be engaging Fairfax County to work out all the details on relocating and compensating the existing residents of the park. However, the two projects are not necessarily tied together. They could be dealt with separately," he said.

Presently, Hyland is attempting to schedule a meeting to bring all the parties together again to continue the dialogue on ways to reach a consensus. It is expected that Lee District Supervisor Dana Kauffman will also be a part of that meeting.