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Development Awaits in New Year

2007 promises changes, new outlook for Springfield.

Out with the old, in with the new will most likely be the motto for Springfield in 2007, as the Mixing Bowl is completed, the addition of HOT lanes on I-95 begins and redevelopment of central Springfield and the area around the Springfield Mall begin to move forward.

The two biggest redevelopment plans, the KSI Midtown Springfield project and the renovations at the Springfield Mall, did not change much in 2006.

The "Midtown Springfield" project is a mixed-use development planned to go in the roughly 9-acre parcel bounded by I-95, Commerce Street and Brandon Avenue.

The developer, KSI Services, Inc., proposes leveling the existing commercial areas and rebuilding a small-scale town center with roughly 800 apartment or condo units, and some retail, office and community space. The project has recently been able to incorporate the Saigon City property, a final holdout, into the overall development.

"It is now formally in the project," said Greg Riegle, attorney for the developer.

The average density for the project will remain the same, Riegle said, but with the additional half-acre of Saigon City, 60,000 more square feet of development is possible, above the almost 250,000 square feet of non-residential space which had been planned prior to Saigon City's acquisition.

"My main concern is that we really get the transportation plan for the project done right," said Paul Gagnon, chair of the Lee District Land Use and Transportation Advisory Committee, which is studying the proposal. "We need to integrate KSI midtown into the Springfield Mall," Gagnon said.

KSI’s proposal is slated to be discussed and voted on by both the Fairfax County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors in 2007.

In addition, Vornado Realty Trust, which purchased the Springfield Mall in 2006 after signing a letter of intent in late 2005, is expected to release plans for changes to the mall in 2007.

Some early concepts have been shown to vendors in the mall, an 80-acre property site, but nothing has been released to the public, said Nancy-jo Manney, executive director of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. That is expected to change this year.

“The only drawings or plans I’ve seen have been on the back of a napkin. There’s been some ideas floating around,” but nothing official, she said.

Currently, the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan calls for the site to be developed with a fairly low-density retail use that decreases around the edges of the site.

"I think what we're looking at is some additional residential within the existing mall footprint," said Vornado spokesman Doug Koelemay. Plans may also include some office space and possibly a hotel on the same site.

Vornado hopes to develop the property in a way that would provide a “town center” feel, a complement to the KSI development down the road. This may include the elimination, or a reduction in, the amount of surface parking surrounding the mall itself.

"This area is ripe for some urban landscape of mixed use," said Gagnon, adding that he would really like to see easier pedestrian access to the nearby Joe Alexander Transportation Center, a hub for Metro, VRE and Greyhound Buses. "Pedestrians have a heck of a time getting across [the Franconia-Springfield parkway]," Gagnon said.

Koelemay said that access would be an important part of the project. "That's what makes a mixed-use development work," he said.

WHEN DRIVERS pass through Springfield on their way to the mall or other attractions, the roads they might be a little less congested and easier to pass through, as the Mixing Bowl nears completion.

"The Springfield project is, in large part, completed," said Steve Titunik, project manager for the Springfield Interchange from the Virginia Department of Transportation. "We just opened the last significant ramp in December, which puts motorists coming from the Outer Loop of the Beltway on Southbound I-95 directly without mixing with local drivers."

By the end of January, a new ramp connecting drivers from the Outer Loop of the Beltway to I-395 North should be completed, which will further separate local motorists with those traveling to the Pentagon.

The entire project should be completed by July, if not earlier, Titunik said, and any extra time will be dedicated to finishing up smaller projects, mostly involving local roads.

"We're still on time and on budget," Titunik said. "The end is near."

The new year should bring with it the beginning of work for High Occupancy Travel lanes on I-95, as a contract was awarded in late 2006 and work is set to begin.

"We're trying to put together a fact sheet on the HOT lanes, but everything is preliminary," Titunik said. "We're hoping to get started on that in the latter part of '07."

In July, the Army will release its environmental impact study (EIS) for the Engineer Proving Ground, which will lead to the determination of what will be placed there in accordance with the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) reassignments announced in 2006. One piece of information that will not be included in the EIS that is of equal importance is an update on the completion of the Fairfax County Parkway.

A 2-mile stretch of the road is slated to be built through the middle of the 800-acre EPG site, but the Army and Virginia Department of Transportation have yet to agree on which agency is going to build the road or when construction might begin.

With a deadline of September 2011 for an estimated 18,000 workers to be in place at the EPG, time is quickly running out.

"The status of the parkway is positive, I think," said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer. "There have been numerous discussions with the Department of the Army. We've made the proposition to them for the Army to manage the planning, redesign and construction of the Parkway. They are interested but it will take some time to work out the details."

Homer said he's seen some preliminary concept drawings but nothing that has been released to the public yet.