Anyone who thinks Fair Lakes is built out is in for a big surprise.
Fair Lakes Center Associates, which includes Jeff Saxe, The Peterson Cos.' senior vice president of planning, presented details recently of a huge, new, mixed-use development proposed for Fair Lakes.
They spoke before the June 5 meeting of the Springfield District/Fairfax Center Land-Use Committee. Before they did, Fairfax County Planning Commission Chairman Pete Murphy (Springfield) described what's planned as "dramatic changes."
Representatives from the nearby Greens of Fair Lakes, Fair Lakes Glen and Water's Edge communities listened as attorney Frank McDermott explained how the proposal would create a self-contained place where, ideally, people could live, work and relax without having to go elsewhere.
Murphy said the applicant made an amendment to the county's Comprehensive Plan, two years ago, and both it and the density ranges for its parcels were already approved. Now, county staff will "rigorously review" the proposed project to see if it's in conformance with the Plan.
"Fair Lakes is a 660-acre development," said McDermott. "In 1982, everybody was thinking, 'Office, office, office.' But Fair Lakes has matured and reacted to market forces and is now a consummate, mixed-use development with its own office, residential, retail and recreation — walking trails — and it's occurred in segments."
So what's being proposed is also expected to develop, one portion at a time. The plan contains multi-story office buildings, a hotel, retail, restaurants, plus multi-family buildings.
HOWEVER, McDermott stressed how, years ago, Hazel Peterson Co. dedicated all the right-of-way for Fair Lakes and built all the roads there, including the Fair Lakes Parkway. Altogether, he said, it was a "$33 million commitment."
"Over the next 18 years, Fairfax County will see an increase in residential, and the way to address it is to put it together, [preferably] near rail stations," said McDermott. "Fair Lakes has three major north-south roads, and I-66 and Route 50, east-west, so it can easily support additional growth."
"Because this area has evolved so well and already has the transportation network in place, we're going from 7.2 million square feet [of development] to another 1.4 million," said McDermott. The architect is Doug Carter, who designed many of Fair Lakes' buildings, including the national award-winning headquarters of The Peterson Cos.
"We've been involved with The Peterson Cos. since Fair Lakes began and it was all woods, 21 years ago," said Carter. "Peterson had a real commitment to celebrate what Fairfax is all about — providing office, retail and residential and adding density, while preserving the environment."
In almost every instance in the new project, he said, "We've located new buildings in the parking lots of existing buildings. It's not the cheapest way to go, but it saves trees."
Carter then described each of the four proposals now before the county, noting that the building heights are still in flux and the figures below may change:
* Two office buildings, 267,000 square feet total, in an L shape, possibly with five stories of offices above six stories of parking. They'd go on the north side of Fair Lakes Circle, about 800 feet east of the Fairfax County Parkway.
"We've taken part of the parking and built a parking deck," said Carter. "And a landscaped area of 20-year-old trees will be in the middle of the L to serve as a wooded plaza with green space."
He said the new buildings would tie in with the existing architecture and have the same, "solar, gray glass' that reflects the environment back onto that glass. And, he added, "The parking structure will look identical to the office space above."
* A 300,000-square-foot, multi-family building, possibly 11 stories above four levels of structured parking. It's planned for the north side of Fair Lakes Circle, some 300 feet southwest of Fair Lakes Parkway. It would be across from the parking lot serving Kohl's and Dick's. Also included would be new, structured parking for the existing office building.
* A 300,000-square-foot, multi-family building, possibly 10 stories over three levels of parking. It would go on the northeast quadrant of the Fair Lakes Circle/Fairfax County Parkway intersection.
"NOW, A GREAT, big parking lot serves two office buildings," said Carter. "So we're building two residential buildings there, but the hill slopes down so we can put in one level of underground parking and one level above ground."
A swimming pool and other amenities are also planned. And Carter noted that the residential buildings — 575 total units — might be anywhere from nine to 14 floors. "We have some flexibility," he said. "If one is taller, the other will be much lower."
* An L-shaped, 95,000-square-foot hotel, possibly eight stories, with 150 rooms. Some 15,000 square feet of retail, not associated with the hotel, would be on the lower level. There'd be one level of at-grade parking and two levels underground. It would all be in the northwest quadrant of the Fair Lakes Circle/Fairfax County Parkway intersection.
It would go in the parking lot of an existing bank. "We'll take down the bank building and preserve a mature and wide stand of trees near the Fairfax County Parkway," said McDermott.
"We kept this building as compact as possible to save the trees," said Carter.
McDermott said a trail or path is also proposed off Fair Lakes Circle to connect the hotel/retail area to the small park at the McDonald's across the street.
"We've literally created an enhanced pedestrian experience to turn this into a desirable community where you can walk and shop and do everything you need, without getting into a car," said Carter.
"We're trying to turn the Fair Lakes Shopping Center into something more pedestrian-friendly, like we did with Fairfax Corner," said Saxe. However, McDermott noted that "this is going to happen over time; it's not going to happen overnight."
Land-use panel member Ron Smith asked what impact the project would have on the "contiguous residential developments and on the traffic." Carter answered that it's anticipated to be minimal on the nearby neighborhoods.
MCDERMOTT SAID the closest homes are multi-family, treed areas, and no vehicular access exists between the parcels. In terms of traffic, he said, "The infrastructure Peterson built has become a regional infrastructure, and we're bearing the burden of all the traffic. And traffic studies projected for 2020 show the intersections will fail, even without us."
He said the new development would provide opportunities for residents to take a shuttle, use an expanded Fairfax Connector bus system and take an express bus to the Vienna Metro. "So although it'll have some impact, we believe this is where we should put it," said McDermott.
"I thoroughly agree with the concept of people living near where they work and being able to walk to shops," said panel member Claudette Ward. "I feel like we're in on the ground floor of building a city." She then asked if the developer would be proffering money for roads and schools.
McDermott said yes to both, plus possible proffers for youth athletic fields, "perhaps in the Popes Head area and in Arrowhead Park." Saxe noted that, since "it'll be high-rise residential, the number of children [generated] will be minimal."
Panelist Steve Wallace asked if there'll be "green," environmentally friendly buildings, and Saxe said they've built five elsewhere and are "looking into it" here.
Panel member Tom Pennington liked the new buildings going into parking lots and asked what type of hotel would go in. "It's going to be an expensive building, so it'll attract a higher-end user," replied Saxe. "It'll be a limited-service hotel and very likely could be a Marriott or Hilton product."
Then the nearby residents spoke. "What you build is all first-class," said Barbara Osgood, president of The Greens homeowners association. "I have a Ph.D. in city and regional planning, so what about the people, us, who already live there? We have needs, too, and we're concerned about our quality of life. We'd like sidewalks, bus shelters, a swimming pool and a dog park."
McDermott appreciated her perspective, but said the Peterson team, over the years, "has always been attentive to the people who exist and who'll come. We believe we can improve the quality of life for everyone there."
Osgood said the existing residents want a sidewalk on both sides of Fair Lakes Boulevard. "People walk through our yards on the way to the shopping center," she said. "And they climb on our sign while waiting for a bus." Saxe said she made good comments and he'd meet with her and anyone else to discuss them.
Saxe also said they'll either contain affordable dwelling units (ADUs), or the developer will contribute to the county's Housing Trust Fund to build them elsewhere. Workforce housing, also for lower-income residents, is also planned.
Pat Rosend of the Water's Edge community said, now that Fair Lakes is such a mixed-use development, it's "time for Peterson to knit the pieces together and make it a whole. There's no gathering point or central plaza for events; integrate something like that into this development."
McDermott said she has a point, but another major, office developer also owns several parcels in Fair Lakes, so Peterson has no control over them. "But we'll talk about your points," he said.
And although the new plazas and green spaces would be open to the public, said Osgood, "They're amenities for the people in those buildings, not us. We're too far away."
But Commissioner Murphy told the residents their concerns "are not part of these applications" and would have to be solved on their own. The applicant also hopes to construct additional office and retail buildings in Fair Lakes as part of this project, but is still revising their specifics.