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Delayed, But Still On

Developer asks county for more time before presenting Midtown Springfield plan.

When KSI, Inc. first presented its Midtown Springfield project, residents and officials alike were encouraged by the mixed-use development proposal that would bring new life to Central Springfield.

Now, however, some are starting to wonder why no public progress has been made on the deal, no new information released in several months.

KSI had been scheduled to make a presentation to the Fairfax County Planning Commission in July, after delaying meetings in December and March. However, in a letter dated April 12, KSI lawyer Greg Riegle is asking for more time.

According to the letter, addressed to Peter Braham in the Office of Comprehensive Planning, KSI is asking for more time to "properly evaluate changing variables that are fundamental to ensuring this project is ultimately successful."

Rising construction costs are also a factor in the delay, the letter states, along with challenges acquiring the needed amount of business space.

"Taking additional time also logically corresponds to ongoing efforts within the county to reorganize and refocus the revitalization function," Riegle wrote. "The applicant continues to undertake project studies that examine the land use mix, density and design of the project to adjust the timing of infrastructure, as well as to reduce total development costs."

Prior to last week’s letter, many business and community leaders were wondering if the development in the middle of Springfield would ever become a reality.

"As far as I know, there's nothing different in their plan from what they've been showing for the past year," said Nancy-jo Manney, executive director of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. "Why it's been pushed back I'm not sure, but my understanding is it's due to a lagging condo market and the increased construction prices."

IT’S POSSIBLE KSI is waiting to start its work until closer to the 2011 deadline for congressionally mandated Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) work to begin at the Engineer Proving Ground, just south of the heart of Springfield on Interstate 95, Manney said. The market may be stronger by then, and KSI has stated construction would only take two years to complete.

Manney doesn't believe KSI will take its proposal off the table, just that the progress is "sluggish but not stopped."

However, were KSI to remove its plans, it's possible another developer would come in and pick up where they left off.

"Prior to KSI looking at this area, no other developer knew it existed," Manney said of the property, located in the middle of the Springfield business district between Backlick Road and Commerce Street. "With the new owners of the [Springfield] mall taking over and all the BRAC changes coming in, people are still thinking about it. When BRAC gets going, it'll be a whole different ballgame."

Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee) agreed with Manney and shared her enthusiasm.

"I haven't heard anything" that would lead him to believe KSI is no longer interested in the property, Kauffman said.

When asked what might have to happen before the midtown project gets started, he said it's probably just a matter of time.

"We always try to wait out economic cycles," he said. "And if I could control economic cycles, well, I'd be sought after as a consultant."