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Rising from The Asphalt

Plan would transform Dunn Loring Metro station parking lot into a mixed use development.

Walter Alcorn, an at-large planning commissioner, who has spent the past few months chairing a committee about Transit Oriented Development says the parking lot at the Dunn Loring Metro is exactly the place for a pedestrian-friendly project like those his committee has been studying.

But a proposed development isn't as pedestrian friendly as it should be, he said. "I see designs that look more like they're for vehicular speed than for pedestrian convenience," Alcorn said during the Nov. 2 Planning Commission meeting. "This is one we've got to make walkable."

Mark Looney, attorney for the developer, agreed. He said that while his client, a consortium led by Trammell Crow Residential, would like to make the roads network more pedestrian friendly, but VDOT guidelines are making those efforts more difficult.

Alcorn sympathized, but said that they may find VDOT willing to be more flexible in its road design parameters in situations like this one.

The plan calls for the redevelopment of the 14-acre parking lot at the Dunn Loring Metro station. The developer will build a 2,000-space parking garage close to the station, which will mean 645 more spaces than are on site now. They will also add space for two more buses, bringing the total to eight.

A mixed-use development will go on the rest of the lot. Plans call for between 550 and 720 residential units — either condos or apartments. In addition, there will be 80,000-105,000 square feet of retail space.

Looney said that the developer has not yet determined the final configuration. There will be some "mid-rise" buildings, but there may also be one high-rise of up to 135 feet.

The development will include a 500-square-foot satellite police office, which Looney said would likely be used by officers on bicycles.

THE DEVELOPERS are promising that their project will generate half as many rush-hour car trips as would be expected of a development of its size. This is the largest trip reduction promised in Fairfax County to date, according to the Department of Planning and Zoning.

Institute of Traffic Engineers projections expect a development of this size to generate 414 trips during rush hour. After the reductions, it can generate a maximum of 207. If the goal is not met, the developer must pay for each extra trip. Trips made during the rest of the day do not count.

Construction will happen in one of two ways, Looney said. One option calls for reconfiguring the parking lot so there is no reduction in the number of parking spaces as the parking garage is constructed. The other would involve keeping about 500 spaces open and using shuttle buses to satellite parking lots during construction.

In response to citizen concerns, Looney noted that Trammel Crow Residential is a separate company from Trammel Crow, which last week was acquired by C.B. Richard Ellis.

SEVERAL PEOPLE who came to speak praised the developer for openness and willingness to engage in substantive discussions about the project.

Others noted that the project meshed well with the plans for the site developed by the Merrifield Plan Task Force. The group met for three years and came to a community consensus about changes that should occur in the Merrifield/Dunn Loring area. "The Trammel Crow Residential Plan is exactly what we had envisioned on this site," said Bob Mortensen who served on the task force.

Patrick Daily, president of the Westbriar Condo association located just across Route 66, said his association was excited about something going on the site. But his association notes the congestion that already exists on Gallows Road. Even after the traffic reductions, he says, there will be hundreds of new cars using the road every day. "The rest of the infrastructure in the area is not prepared to handle additional residents," Daily said.

Michael Scheurer, president of AHOME, an affordable housing advocate, spoke, asking the developer to add more affordable housing to the development, saying that its proximity to Metro makes it an ideal location for lower-income residents.

Under current zoning laws, the developer is under no obligation to provide any affordable dwelling units. Looney pointed out that eight percent of the units (a maximum of 57 units) will be either affordable or "workforce" housing.

A portion will meet the terms of the county regulations meaning they will be affordable to people who make up to 70 percent of the area median income. The area median income for the Washington, D.C.-area, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is $90,300. To qualify for an affordable units, a family can make up to $63,210.

Others will be "workforce housing." Although the county has no formal definition for workforce housing, in this case, the units will be for people making up to 80 percent of the median ($72,240).

"I think it's more than adequately addressed," said Commission Chair Peter Murphy (Springfield).

Because of the complexity of the case, Planning Commissioner Ken Lawrence (Providence) deferred decision on the development until Nov. 15. Another Public Hearing is scheduled before the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 4.

If approved by the Board, Looney says construction could begin as early as late next year.