If all goes as planned, seven new buildings and lots more parking will be coming to the Fairfax Corner shopping center. The local attraction is already immensely popular with area residents, and developer The Peterson Cos. believes the new additions will make the whole shebang serve the community even better.
Land-use attorney Frank McDermott and Jeff Saxe, senior vice president, planning, with Peterson, presented the proposal during Tuesday night’s meeting of the Springfield District/Fairfax Center Land-Use Committee.
“We’d like to implement the already-approved Comprehensive Plan Amendment for the core area, involving office, residential and retail – and continuing the possibility of a hotel,” explained McDermott. “We’d need a rezoning to add 290 residential units and 636,000 square feet of nonresidential development.”
THE EXISTING shops, restaurants, offices and movie theater constitute Phase I of the shopping center. Phase II would consist of the following:
* Two residential-only buildings containing multifamily units, flanking the Coastal Flats restaurant, and another residential-only building west of P.F. Chang’s and the pond by Monument Drive;
* Three buildings combining both office and retail, on either side of the theater, adjacent to Random Hills Road;
* One hotel containing retail uses; and
* Parking decks.
“We already conveyed some land to the county as open space to support the original 114 acres,” said McDermott. “When this is done, we’ll still have 27-percent open space in the core area and 35 percent overall. And we connected all of this to the trail system running throughout the Government Center complex.”
Parking decks are proposed on the east and west sides of the movie theater. And a new building in front of the east-side parking deck would feature retail on the ground floor and office above it. A hotel would go in front of that building. Said Saxe: “Negotiations are underway with a few hotels who’ve expressed interest.”
He said the shopping center has enough parking on the west side, "but we’re tight on the east side. But the east-side parking deck will have 1,100 spaces, whereas the surface parking there now has 220 spaces.”
Even after the hotel and retail uses are operational, said Saxe, “There’ll be 400 spaces extra in that area, beyond what’s there today. And we think that’ll go an awful long way toward balancing the parking there to what we originally planned.”
FURTHERMORE, two of the residential buildings will have in-ground parking, and the third will have both at- and above-ground parking. Saxe said the two near Coastal Flats will have 2 1/2 levels of retail only and 1 1/2 levels of residential only.
McDermott said the small shops and restaurants envisioned for that section of Fairfax Corner are intended to “extend the Main Street/town-center feel, east and west, all the way to Government Center Parkway." They’d go along Palace Way – the street in front of the theater – on both sides of the theater.
“We’re continuing the street façade that’s been so successful on the main street – Grand Commons Avenue – on Palace Way,” added Saxe. “So there’ll be a second shopping and strolling street, with parallel parking on both sides.”
McDermott said all the uses planned in Phase II will benefit Fairfax County, as well. “[They’ll] generate $3.5 million into the Fairfax Center Road Fund,” said McDermott. “And that’s in addition to the $1.6 million we’ve already [contributed].”
He said enhanced plaza treatments will be a "major focus" of the project: "One will be in front of the Ruth's Chris [Steakhouse] building, and we'll add a plaza area in front of [new] Building B" — containing office and retail, west of the theater. Still another plaza is earmarked for the front of new Building C, between Building B and the theater.
There'll also be a plaza at the corner of Palace Way and Monument Wall Way, at the southeastern portion of the theater and adjacent to the new Building G-1, containing office and retail uses. Saxe said it'll have brick pavers and benches.
"We're also showing a fountain or vertical, sculptural element at the plaza in front of Building B," said Saxe. McDermott said that plaza will also screen Fairfax Corner from the eventual, Metro support-site planned to the west of that building.
Tracy Strunk, with county staff, said they're mainly concerned with making sure that what we see is what we get. We're looking for some additional details from the applicant on, for example, the residential amenities."
Tom McDonald, with the land-use committee, asked what the heights of the various new buildings would be. Replied Saxe: "Up to 14 stories on B and C [office and retail], up to 12 stories on G-1 [office and retail] and P-2 [hotel and retail], and up to eight stories on N, I and F-3 [residential only]."
"We're trying to maintain enough flexibility to respond to the market," he explained. That way, if a company needed a building of a certain height, Peterson could construct it. "For example, on G-1, we're planning seven levels in height," said Saxe. "But we'd like to have the option of building a taller building if [requested]."
MCDONALD ALSO asked if the office parking would be available for retail customers to use after hours, and Saxe said yes.
Regarding the 220 surface-parking spaces that will be lost during construction of the G-1 structured parking area, east of the theater, Saxe said, "In the interim, we'll get a lot and have valets and shuttle people back and forth."
However, he said the surface parking area wouldn't be changed until after this Christmas-shopping season. And McDermott noted that lots at the county Government Center "would be perfect" for interim parking areas.
Panel member Ron Smith said traffic on Route 29 would increase as a result of all the new offerings at the shopping center, but Saxe said that's why Peterson's donating $3.5 million for road improvements.
Panelist Claudette Ward asked if any of the 290 residential units will be workforce housing (for people making lower salaries), and McDermott said they've proffered five percent ADUs (affordable dwelling units) and three percent workforce housing, so nine homes would be workforce-priced.
Added Springfield District Supervisor Pete Murphy: "The Plan Amendment was done before the Board [of Supervisors] approved any guidelines for workforce housing, so this sets the trend for it."
The committee then unanimously approved the application; next stop is the Planning Commission on June 13. Saxe hopes to break ground on Building G-1 later this year.