Once again Monday night the Kings Crossing development project proved to be no field of dreams. The primary point of disagreement was the validity of the adage, “Build it and they will come.” The question raised by members of the Spring Bank Community Association was who would come.
As usual, on one side of the answer was the potential developer of the 11-plus acre site at the intersection of Route 1 and North Kings Highway, JPI Development Partners, Inc. On the other were approximately 20 skeptical members of the association. At issue remains the ratio, both in total percentage and in terms of square feet, of residential to commercial/retail development.
Aaron C. Liebert, JPI’s vice president and area managing partner, spent more than an hour detailing the company’s latest design concepts to the members gathered at Groveton Baptist Church only to be soundly criticized and threatened with a citizen revolt for not proposing more commercial/retail and substantially less residential development. And, it didn’t even come from an association member.
“What we need is 60 percent commercial/retail and 40 percent residential. What you are proposing will only get us more of the type of retail that is already found along Richmond Highway,” said Sheldon Hoenig, representing the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens’ Associations.
“I’m prepared to create a slogan to get this, ‘60-40 or fight.’ You are not going to get Mount Vernon Council to go along with what you are proposing,” Hoenig said. “And, you are not going to get SFDC [the Southeast Fairfax Development Council] to back this either. We don’t need any more Mannie, Moe and Jack type retail.”
In a less confrontational tone, Martin Tillett, association vice president, asked Liebert, “Why should we go with you and not with the community?”
Liebert replied, “It’s the details in the final plan that’s going to convince the community in the final analysis. There is no magic in a 60-40 division.”
Tieing the higher residential ratio to escalating real estate taxes throughout the county, Liebert asked, “Why are residential assessments going up in Fairfax County, because there is not enough housing in the county to meet demand.”
Tillett countered, “This portion of the county has far too much residential.” He also challenged JPI’s sincerity by noting, “JPI has a track record of building and getting out.”
Liebert admitted that he could not guarantee that JPI would still be involved with the property in 10 years.
“Our primary office building is to be an 80,000-square-foot building and will cost approximately $20 million. We will build that when we find enough tenants. The last thing we want is a Crab Shack or Pizza Hut at the front door to a $300 million community,” Liebert said.
IN HIS PRESENTATION Liebert traced the evolution of the project from the original design to its current February 2006 manifestation. “JPI’s goal is to build a new community to accommodate growth in Fairfax County. This design is based on the concept of an urban neighborhood,” he said.
“It is to create an 18-hour community, to provide a balanced mix of jobs and housing while preserving the site’s natural resources. Our studies, and national studies, show that the fastest growing households are young professionals, empty nesters, single parents, couples with no children and senior citizens. The nuclear family of the past is basically gone,” he said.
Liebert noted that these new demographics, “All create a demand for mixed use developments and walkable neighborhoods.” He also insisted that mixed use developments have a “minimal school impact and reduce traffic congestion.”
The latest plan calls for 786 residential units divided into 300 condominiums, 243 luxury apartments, and 243 townhouses. It also provides underground parking and 10 acres of parks and green space. The townhouses are divided between front and rear garages designs depending on their location on the property.
Front garage units would be located closer to Route 1 while those with rear garages would be to the rear of the property near the large open space park. There would be 161,000 square feet of office space and nearly 220,000 square feet of retail space, including a 60,000 square foot grocery store, per the latest plot plan.
When asked the projected price of the homes, Liebert estimated the standard designed townhouses at $700,000 to $800,000 and those of a “stacked” design, where two owners are accommodated with a single structure according to lower and upper levels, to range between $500,000 and $600,000. He also estimated apartment rentals to vary from $800 to $1000 per month.
Liebert noted that retail space within the project site had increased by 62 percent since the May 2005 site plan.
However, based on the entire site area, by his own figures, the ratio of residential to commercial/retail uses remains at 75 percent residential to 25 percent commercial/retail.
FOLLOWING JPI’S PRESENTATION SBCA President David Dale called for a group discussion on this latest plan. He pointed out that, “By right 236,000 square feet of commercial/retail space could be constructed at the site not requiring any approval of County Planning and Zoning.”
Archon, owners of the property, could decide to part company with JPI, the potential developer, and just bring in a “big box” store or they could sell it off, Dale pointed out. David Paul, representing the Dallas, Texas-based Archon, had previously threatened to sell the property if the local groups insisted on dramatically increasing the percentage of commercial/retail space.
Liebert announced prior to leaving the meeting that JPI is planning an open house on the project for March 29 at Eagle Elementary School on North Kings Highway commencing at 6:30 p.m. The Mount Vernon Council of Citizens’ Associations’ Planning and Zoning Committee will be discussing the latest plans at their next meeting on April 3, according to Dale who also is chair of that body.