Rebirth of the Kings Crossing mixed use development received an overwhelming vote of confidence Monday night by the Spring Bank Community Association during the group's regular monthly meeting at Groveton Baptist Church. But, all out support remains on identifying "the devil in the details."
Following a presentation by Aaron Liebert, vice president and area managing partner of JPI Development, and Grant M. Ehat, principal, JBG Rosenfeld Retail, the 25 association members present indicated their approval for the revised concept while acknowledging that their final approval rests on many elements yet to be developed.
"We know that the devil is in the details. But, we are seeking a show of interest in this concept before we go any further. There is a lot of money and effort at stake and we don't want to proceed if there is no support," said Liebert.
"We were working on the original project for more than two years. We got pretty close before things began to unravel. There were several requirements imposed on that plan that were going to be very hard to fulfill. If any one of them failed the entire project would have failed," he said.
The previous plan for Kings Crossing was also a mixed use development encompassing several style of residential units, commercial and retail space, plus a hotel. The residential units were made up of rental, condominiums, and townhouses. When the condominium market collapsed it severely impacted the economic element of the proposed development.
An 11 plus acre site at the intersection of Route 1 and South Kings Highway, the land is owned by Archon of Dallas. JPI Development of McLean was to be the prime developer for the previous plan under a contract with Archon. After failing to get the endorsement of
such groups as the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens' Associations and Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation the project collapsed and the contract between JPI and Archon expired. SBCA was the only group to ultimately endorse the previous plan.
At the time of that endorsement, SBCA President David Dale said, "This is not perfect but it is probably the best we are going to get." Monday night he urged his members to listen closely to the new presentation and ask searching questions.
ARCHON CAN DEVELOP the site with a "big box" retailer "by right" needing no approval except for detail factors. At the commencement of the original proposal the site was home to Chuck E Cheese and Michaels. The latter moved to the revitalized Mount Vernon Plaza. Archon has reportedly been courted by big box operations such as Wal Mart, Cosco and National Liquidators.
"Although we (JPI/JBG) do not have a contract with Archon and we do not own the land, we have convinced Archon that they would realize a better return on their investment if this plan is accepted than just leasing the site to a big box retailer," Liebert explained to the group.
If everybody likes this plan we can put it back together. Tonight we'd like to get a sense from you if we should go forward or not," Liebert said.
WHEN QUESTIONED about the type and quality of retail being planned for the site, Ehat emphasized that it was "strictly upscale." The primary anchor store being pursued is Wegmans Grocery. Although, both Liebert and Ehat were quick to point out that they were making no guarantees that Wegmans will be the grocery on site.
"Our goal is to bring in Wegmans. We have had conversations with them but there is nothing pinned down. They (Wegmans) are really eager about this opportunity but the economics have not been worked out," Ehat said.
"We are now able to bring in more high end retail tenants because of the concept's reconfiguration. By increasing the size of the plan it has actually made it easier to attract more upscale retail," he said. "I feel very comfortable we can pull high end retailers with this plan."
Another stumbling block to the original plan was the ratio of residential to retail/commercial/office. All the various parties to the previous approval process were insisting on nearly a minimum 60/40 split, residential/retail. JPI and Archon saw this as unrealistic from the start and pushed for a ratio closer to 70 percent residential to 30 percent retail/commercial.
The revised plan calls for 31 percent commercial and the remainder retail/commercial, according to Liebert. "However, this plan also incorporates 10 percent of the residential units will be affordable/workforce housing," he said.
Under the new proposal there would be 1250 residential units compared to 676 previously. Of those 125 would be affordable/workforce units.
Although the residential unit percentage density remains the same there will be more multi-family units that will be "more affordable and more flexible. Thirty percent of the land would be retail/commercial divided nearly equally between the two uses.
"All the previous proffers are still in place and the park area is the same as before. It will still be dedicated back to the County
Park Authority upon completion of the project," Liebert said.
A major difference between this plan and the original Kings Crossing concept is this is a phased project. The first phase encompasses the anchor property and four of the residential/retail buildings. The other two phases will be developed "based on tenant and market demands."
It has been reoriented locating the anchor grocery on the north side of Shields Avenue consuming the area presently occupied by the Penn Daw Mobile Home Park. Relocating residents of that park is still in negotiation and no contract has been agreed upon between JPI and the owner of the mobil home park land, according to Liebert.
"There is the possibility of a monetary settlement with the owners of the mobile homes or of providing them with affordable housing at an agreed upon rate within the new development for a specified period of time. We are still working with the mobile home park residents," he acknowledged.
"I think the question on the floor tonight is whether you feel this a good design and approach. Nor will this design come to fruition in every detail . If anybody can do this project it is JPI and JBG. We made a lot of mistakes the first time around. We do not want to do that again," Liebert said.
With that, Dale asked for a show of hands as to the group's overall impression. There were only two out of the 25 percent who indicated they would like more details before JPI and JBG went forward. Even they saw it a significant improvement over the previous plan.