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Close But No Deal – Yet

King Crossing Project inches closer to the 60-40 SBCA goal.

Spring Bank Community Association members remained skeptical Monday night of JPI Development's latest plans for Kings Crossing even though changes now bring it closer than ever to their desired 60/40 percentage split between residential and commercial uses on the 11 plus acre site.

With the addition of a 22,000 square feet hotel, plus enhanced retail and 211,500 square feet of office space, the proposed project at the intersection of Richmond and North Kings highways now has a ration of 32.2 percent commercial to 67.8 percent residential space allotment, according to Aaron C. Liebert, vice president and area managing partner, JPI.

"We have been listening and paying attention to the community. And, what we heard was for more commercial space and more open space," Liebert told the Spring Bank residents and others assembled at Groveton Baptist Church.

"We are now planning a 150 room hotel on the site that will incorporate retail space on the first level. We have not decided on a particular company but Marriott, Hilton and others are definitely interested," Liebert said.

"We have also moved the large retail/residential building originally planned nearer the front of the project deeper in to reduce its effect of towering over the neighborhoods. And the open space has grown significantly," he said.

Joining Liebert in the detailed presentation were Charles O'Connell, senior transportation engineer, Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc., plus Krista Carlson DiIaconi, vice president, and John Mitchell, senior leasing director, JBG Rosenfeld Retail. JPG is being considered by JPI as the retail partner for the project.

"You need a lot of players to make a project like this successful," said DiIaconi. "We think this is going to be a great project," added Mitchell. He also noted that his research had revealed their there was an existing lack of upscale retail along Route 1

"So far we have neglected to bring in a retail partner because it has been premature. The project has not really taken shape until now," said Greg Lamb, senior vice president, JPI.

JPG specializes in garnering retail enterprises for both mix-use developments, such as planned for Kings Crossing, and for individual development sites such as the new Whole Foods Grocery on Duke Street in Alexandria. "For this project we are looking at bringing in upscale ground-level retail. We want this to be a walkable community," Mitchell said.

LIEBERT ALSO ANNOUNCED that JPI is proposing a number of proffers in conjunction with its zoning application to the Fairfax County Planning Commission. One of those is the proposed widening of Richmond Highway to construct a turning lane into the site at both the main entrance and Shields Avenue. This would include a new traffic signal at Shields Avenue.

"This still needs to be approved by VDOT and we have to work out the details. This will ease the traffic flow to and from the project," said O'Connell.

Other proffers, now part of their rezoning application, include a $200,000 stream restoration for Quander Brook and a $1 million dollar proposal to underground existing utility lines along Route 1, according to Liebert.

JPI plans to buy out the several fast food establishments along the Route 1 border of the site as their leases expire "and tear down the buildings," Liebert stated. "There is not one component of this project that is more important than another," Lamb reassured the association members.

Plans include the existing service station at Shields Avenue to be moved to allow for First Street to connect directly to Shields Avenue. "We do not own the mobile home site on Shields Avenue yet, but we have an option," said David Paul, Archon Corporation, owners of the Kings Crossing site. JPI is Archon's selected developer.

During the question and answer period following JPI's formal presentation, Martin Tillett, SBCA member, asked Liebert if JPI planned to continue to work with the association to gain more commercial space or was this the final offer. "We went back to Archon and said that the project we were originally going to build, with a 75/25 split between residential and commercial use, was not going to be possible," Liebert answered.

"The thing that's been driving this is trying to build a consensus among all the partners. We want this to happen," Lamb said.

As of Monday night's presentation the number of residential units is now down to 690 from a staring point of well over 800. There are also 18 units of affordable housing planned in addition to 32 units of "work force" housing. These are units set aside for those employed by local government or near by retail establishments, according to Liebert.

When questioned about the timing of building various structures within the project, Liebert said that it was a question of building the retail so that future residents will have the amenities they expect. "The worst case scenario for us would be to not get the residences built and have a change in the financing picture," Liebert explained.

Following a period of discussion among themselves, Dale called for a straw vote on the members' reaction to the new changes and the announcement of JBG as a potential retail partner. The result was an overwhelming favorable vote for the plan as presented.

When queried by Dale as to how many would support the project if the commercial element were to reach 40 percent, the group indicated unanimous support. A formal vote on the project by the association is to be held at their May meeting following careful review of various documents planned for next Monday night.

As summarized by Spring Bank resident Michael Sicheri, "You can hope for better. But, these changes are really good."