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Supervisors Approve Shops at Centreville's Gateway

Walgreen's, Bank of America would replace adult-video store and other uses.

Hello, bank and pharmacy; goodbye adult-video store.

That's what many relieved residents will be saying next year when the MVC Latenight DVD store at the crossroads of Routes 28 and 29 in Centreville leaves and a new Bank of America and Walgreen's replace it and other small businesses there.

THE FAIRFAX COUNTY Board of Supervisors on Monday unanimously approved a plan for a new shopping center there to be called The Shops at Centreville's Gateway. Said Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully): "Given that there's [existing] development there that's fairly objectionable, I think it's worked out fine."

The proposal by Unicorp National Developments Inc. also received endorsements from the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) Land-Use Committee and the county Planning Commission. The approvals paved the way for construction of a 14,550-square-foot Walgreen's Pharmacy and a 5,700-square-foot Bank of America on a 3.67-acre site along Routes 28/29 and Braddock Road.

A 3,200-square-foot retail building — and its associated parking — initially included in the plan — have since been eliminated. That area will instead become heavily landscaped open space.

The bank and pharmacy both needed special-exception permits from the county for their drive-through windows. Furthermore, since this spot is so visible to passersby and is considered the entrance to Centreville's Historic District, what's to be built here also had to pass muster with the county's Architectural Review Board (ARB).

At the Tuesday, Sept. 19, WFCCA meeting, attorney Melanie Reilly said the small retail building was jettisoned after Unicorp met with county staff and the ARB. And the bank building was rotated to put its drive-through windows to the rear of the site, for better traffic circulation within the shopping center.

IN ADDITION, said Reilly, "The ARB wants the front facade of Walgreen's to be mostly stone, broken up by some Hardee board [a specific type of plank siding]." Historically appropriate plants will be used throughout the site, and the building designs will be simple in scale and will incorporate stone and siding in keeping with Centreville's historical colors.

Unicorp had also included several historical amenities in its plan, such as story pillars illustrating Centreville's history and an unusual type of walkway leading to the Historic District. But Reilly said county staff wants the amenities now "left as a blank slate for community input as [the site] develops so it can really be a gateway to the historic area."

As for the businesses currently there, she said, "The soonest the tenants will be leaving that site is spring. And we'll be moving forward as soon as we can."

The sides of the Walgreen's building will be broken into smaller façades. And the exterior will give the sense of storefronts. Both it and the bank will have a total of 97 parking spaces.

The Bank of America is constructing its prototype for a LEEDS structure on this site, meaning it would be a "green building" — energy efficient, reducing negative impacts on the environment and improving its occupants' health and well-being. However, said Unicorp's Susan Bourgeois, "It won't have a 'green' roof [where plants could be grown] because they haven't figured out the mold and mildew issues associated with 'green' buildings people are in — just parking garages."

WFCCA's Carol Hawn thanked the Unicorp representatives for all their hard work. "I know it's been rough," she said. "You guys came back and came back and came back, and you stuck in there. It'll be a vast improvement over what's there now and something we can be proud of."

THE MATTER went to the Planning Commission last week and received a thumbs-up on Thursday, Sept. 21. "We added a development condition to do a Phase II archaeological survey, down the end of Braddock Road," said At-large Planning Commissioner Jim Hart. "It's to see if they could find anything of historical significance — especially the foundation of the original Newgate Tavern, if it was even there. They already did a Phase I survey, but didn't find anything."

He, too, praised Unicorp for cooperating so well with the community, taking suggestions and making changes. And, he added, this plan is a huge improvement "over the uses that were proposed [there] by others in the past."

After the Board of Supervisors' approval Monday made it a clean sweep for Unicorp, Supervisor Frey said, "I think it's a difficult site; you're not starting from scratch. Unicorp worked hard, and I think the aesthetics [of the buildings] will be very nice."

He said he expects the finished product to be attractive and, besides that, "What ultimately comes there will be compatible with and complimentary to the Historic District." Frey said the Bank of America will also be happy to move into new digs and leave its current spot in the Newgate Shopping Center, across Route 28.

"The bank has wanted to relocate for a long time," he said. "It needed more space for its drive-through window customers."