Ridgewood Mixed-Use Project Gets Kudos

Ridgewood Mixed-Use Project Gets Kudos

The Ridgewood mixed-use project hasn't yet received final county approval, but it received favorable reviews last week from the Fairfax County Planning Commission.

It consists of shops, restaurants, homes and offices earmarked for the northwest intersection of Waples Mill Road and Lee Highway, near Ridge Top Road in Fairfax. And the developer will also build a crucial section of Government Center Parkway between Monument Drive and Waples Mill Road.

Proposed on an 18-acre site are 200,000 square feet of offices, 54,000 square feet of retail and 448 residential units. The homes will be high-quality condominiums for sale, rather than rent, and will be about 1,300 square feet each.

One building will contain 124 condos, and another will house 324 of them. One structure will be seven or eight stories high, and another will feature some 20,000 square feet of the retail uses, with condos on the second floor.

Vienna-based KSI Services Inc. is developing Ridgewood and envisions an active, mixed-use community balanced with retail and office uses, as well as landscaped open space for community use. Parking for the offices will be in a parking garage, and residential parking will be under a central plaza, so none of the vehicles will be visible from the outside.

Before it can become a reality, however, this project needs both a rezoning and an amendment to the county's Comprehensive Plan. The property is currently zoned I-5 (industrial) and contains a self-storage facility. But it requires a rezoning to a "P" (planned) district.

And since it's presently earmarked for office and industrial use, it also needs an out-of-turn plan amendment to delete the industrial component and add an option for residential and retail use.

Last Thursday, Jan. 26, the Planning Commission held a public hearing on the plan amendment, but deferred decision until Feb. 22, so the amendment language may be fine-tuned. Its public hearing on the rezoning is set for May 3.

Jeffrey Jones, owner of the nearby Shurgard Self-Storage, spoke in favor of the amendment. "Some time in the future, we'd like to upgrade our facility," he explained. "My only concern is that we now have an access off Route 29, and we'd like this access to be preserved."

Attorney Greg Riegle, representing the property owner, said the current zoning and Comprehensive Plan recommendations "don't reflect what we see as the ideal vision for this property. This very critical part of Fairfax Center forms [this area's] eastern anchor."

As things stand now, he said, the I-5 zoning receives "little regulation above the bare-boned regulations of the zoning ordinance. This [change] provides clear guidance for development conditions, rezoning and proffers."

KSI has a great deal of experience developing mixed-use projects, including Trinity Centre in Centreville. And this one would create another convenient work, living, dining, shopping and gathering place for local residents.

It would also enable that area to maintain an office presence. The developer hopes the project could break ground in 2007-08, and Riegle said Ridgewood's benefits are many.

"This provides a critical transportation link by constructing the missing piece of Government Center Parkway," he said. "A mixed-use pattern of development gets people out of their automobiles and provides the opportunity for retail, parks, entertainment and other amenities." And, he added, Ridgewood will also bring "an important diversity and residential component in this area of Fairfax Center."

Planning Commission Chairman Pete Murphy, who also represents the Springfield District in which this develpment would be built, praised the project, as well.

"There's a tremendous public benefit with the extension of Government Center Parkway from Monument Drive To Waples Mill," he said. "[This area] would go from I-5 to mixed use, residential, office and retail, and it would be pedestrian-friendly and transportation oriented."

Overall, said Murphy, "It's a good deal — it's going to jazz up Lee Highway." Before the Planning Commission renders its decision, however, he told Riegle certain issues need to be addressed.

"Do the construction of Government Center Parkway in the first phase of development," advised Murphy. "And make some arrangement for TDMs." This stands for "transportation-demand management" — reducing the number of single-occupant vehicles and encouraging ride-sharing and other transit options.

He was also pleased that the developer plans to include ADUs (affordable dwelling units) for "workforce housing" — people with incomes just slightly higher than what's required to qualify for an ADU. Said Murphy: "I believe this project will be a great asset to the Fairfax Center area, Fairfax County and the Springfield District."