Fairfax County has cleared the way for a huge, new project featuring shops, restaurants, homes and offices to arise at the northwest intersection of Waples Mill Road and Lee Highway, near Ridge Top Road in Fairfax.
What's more, the Ridgewood mixed-use project will also contain some homes specifically designated as "workforce housing" and will make possible the completion of a crucial section of road.
The developer is KSI Services Inc. of Vienna, and it will create an active, mixed-use community balanced with retail and office uses, plus landscaped open space for community use. And now that it's received the blessing of both the county Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors for the rezoning it needed, it's full speed ahead.
Planned on an 18-acre site are 152,400 square feet of offices — with an option to add 50,000 square feet more, 32,100 square feet of retail and 500 residential units. The homes will be high-quality condominiums for sale, rather than rent, and will be about 1,300 square feet each.
One residential building 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. And the workforce housing will accommodate people with incomes up to about $74,000 per year —which is higher than what's required to qualify for an ADU (affordable dwelling unit).
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. The developer will also extend Government Center Parkway between Monument Drive and Waples Mill Road.
"It'll be four lanes, median-divided," said Springfield District Planning Commissioner Pete Murphy. "We want the infrastructure in place first, and they've agreed to do it prior to the issuance of the first residential or nonresidential use permit."
"AND THAT'S going to help the traffic flow in the Lee Highway Corridor and, obviously, be beneficial to this site with its mixed-use of residential, commercial and retail," he continued. "And the new traffic signals at Waples Mill Road and Government Center Parkway, and Ridge Top Road and Government Center Parkway, will help, as well."
Murphy's also happy that KSI has a Traffic Demand Management (TDM) plan that addresses "ameliorating traffic to and from the site." TDMs contain guidance on how to discourage single-occupancy vehicles and encourage van and carpools. He said Ridgewood will also participate in a future shuttle-bus program.
The project initially required both a rezoning and an amendment to the county's Comprehensive Plan. Since this area was originally designated for office and industrial use, an out-of-turn plan amendment was necessary to delete the industrial component and add an option for residential and retail use.
The Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors both approved this amendment in February. Then came the rezoning request — which the Planning Commission OK'd June 14 and the Supervisors green-lighted on Monday. The property is currently zoned I-5 (industrial), but it needed to be rezoned to a "P" (planned) district.
Besides the stipulation about the road, Murphy also had KSI specify that the $662/home it'll donate to parks and recreation will go to the county Park Authority for Patriot Park. "It's for an athletic-field complex at the Fairfax County Parkway and Braddock Road to address the need for athletic fields in the county," said Murphy. "Every little bit helps."
He also amended the proffers so that the developer will construct a historical marker in the project's open-space park. It will commemorate the fact that a German prisoner-of-war camp used to be on this site. (Murphy learned that, while the prisoners were on work release, they toiled on farms in Centreville).
Also of great significance, he said, is the way KSI is handling ADUs and workforce housing in Ridgewood's residential component. The developer has proffered to construct 8 percent of the units as either workforce housing or ADUs. So, if all 500 units are built, that would mean three ADUs and 37 workforce units — 40 units total.
"I'm particularly pleased that this application addressed [both types of units]," said Murphy. "It's probably the first application that's come down the pike with a combination of ADUs and workforce housing."
AFTER THE Planning Commission's unanimous approval of the rezoning, Murphy then made a motion that the Board of Supervisors expedite the process to establish comprehensive procedures and guidelines for workforce housing. This information could then be used uniformly by county staff, the Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors, developers and citizens.
"That way, we can apply them to our rezoning applications," he explained. "We have a formula for ADUs, but no guidelines to determine what we should be asking the developers for, in terms of the number of workforce houses needed for each application."
The availability of these lower-priced homes is critical for workers — "especially those in starter positions, such as beginning teachers, as well as police officers and fire-and-rescue personnel," said Murphy. But these homes wouldn't be limited to them; people not earning more than a certain dollar amount would also be eligible for them.
It's only fair, he said: "These folks don't have to live in Spotsylvania because they can't afford to live in Fairfax County. [Workforce housing] will be an important asset to the I-66/Route 50 area, where we're putting in a lot of businesses, public facilities, schools and fire stations — where these workers will gravitate."
All in all, said Murphy, Ridgewood should be a welcome addition to this part of the county and will encourage its residents to get around by bicycle and foot, instead of motor vehicle. "Bike storage will be available in the residential units," he said. "This will be another town-center development that'll be really pedestrian friendly."