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MidTown Project Still on Track

Project is moving forward, but is only one part of Springfield's likely redevelopment.

Although it's been delayed, one part of Springfield's renaissance is continuing through the development process, and will be incorporated into a county-sponsored study.

The "Midtown Springfield" project is a mixed-use development planned to go in the roughly 9-acre parcel bounded by I-95, Commerce Street and Brandon Avenue.

The developer, KSI Services, Inc., proposes leveling the existing commercial areas and rebuilding a small-scale town center with roughly 800 apartment or condo units, and some retail, office and community space.

The project has recently been able to incorporate the Saigon City property, a final holdout, into the overall development. "It is now formally in the project," said Greg Riegle, attorney for the developer.

The average density for the project will remain the same, Riegle said, but with the additional half-acre of Saigon City, 60,000 more square feet of development is possible, above the almost 250,000 square feet of non-residential space which had been planned prior to Saigon City's acquisition.

"My main concern is that we really get the transportation plan for the project done right," said Paul Gagnon, chair of the Lee District Land Use and Transportation Advisory Committee, which is studying the proposal.

While the project will certainly have an impact on the surrounding road network, Gagnon is hoping that KSI will be able to integrate some strategies to reduce the impact of traffic in the area, such as asking KSI to provide Smartcards to residents and trying to work out some bus routes to connect to the nearby Franconia-Springfield Metro Station. "We need to integrate KSI midtown into the Springfield Mall," Gagnon said.

Riegle echoed the idea behind this plan. "The goal is to make sure that it works internally and is positive externally." He said that he is currently working with Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning staff to address any issues.

INTEGRATION OF this project with others in the area is one of Supervisor Dana Kauffman's (D-Lee) goals. The Midtown Springfield project, the Mall, and new Marriott hotel and the Engineer Proving Ground are all poised to change drastically in the coming years. "We're on the cusp of having a lot of things break at once," said Kauffman.

As a result, Kauffman asked the Board of Supervisors on April 3 to hire the Urban Land Institute, a nationally known think-tank of urban planning, to study what could happen in Springfield. "What happens when these all hit at once?" Kauffman asked. "How are they interrelated?"

Kauffman said the study could help to provide a baseline for determining what Springfield is like now, and the various impacts that the major developments might generate.

After the study, Kauffman said, developers of the various parcels would not be able to blame things like additional traffic on someone else's project. Besides accountability, this would help with fairness, since it would not fall to the final developer in the series of redevelopment plans to mitigate the impacts of the other developments.

Additionally, it would look at ideas like asking each of the various projects to provide a shuttle bus service. Instead, perhaps these buses could be whittled down to one or two routes, shared between the property owners.

Riegle welcomed the plan. "[Kauffman] to his credit has been consistent in setting his expectations with us," he said. "I think it's an indication of the recognition that this project really is a catalyst."

A public hearing before the Fairfax County Planning Commission on MidTown Springfield (case number RZ-2005-LE-025) is scheduled for June 1.