Merrifield Proposal Scrutinized

Merrifield Proposal Scrutinized

Design, lack of community benefit, concern residents.

A proposed development south of the Dunn Loring Metro Station could possibly introduce as many as 1,125 dwelling units to the redeveloping Merrifield area. The local residents, however, are expressing concern that the development is bending the rules of transit-oriented development, without offering much to the general community.

“There is no green space, absolutely zero,” said Becky Cate, Providence District Council's land use committee chairperson. “There is nothing of recreational interest outside of the development,” she added. Cate said the development is inwardly oriented, and does not provide direct access to Gallows Road, one of area’s major roadways, which forms its eastern border.

The Halstead Mixed Use Development is a two-phase project, according to Elizabeth Baker, a planner with Walsh Colucci, a law firm representing the Boston-based developers DSF/Long Metro II and DSF/Long Metro III, LLC. Six of the 14.27 acres have already been developed. Halstead at the Metro consists of two buildings, which house 436 condos and fewer than 5,000 square feet of retail space. According to Cate, the two existing buildings — across from the metro station — stand 65 feet tall. The existing development separates the proposed development from the metro station. According to Baker, the proposed buildings at the remaining 8-and-a-half acres could be built as high as 165 feet.

“Building heights made no sense,” said Cate.

“This is flipped,” said Mike Cavin, another resident concerned about the building heights. He said transit-oriented development encourages the tallest buildings to go next to the metro stations, tapering off in height as they distance themselves from the platforms.

“THIS IS ALL IN keeping within the comprehensive plan for that area,” said Baker. She said there are two options for the 8-and-a-half acre plot of land. One option includes between 950 and 1,125 residential units and 126,000 square feet of retail space. The second option would include between 840 and 1,000 residential units, 112,500 square feet of retail space and a 150-room hotel. Baker said the developer would be submitting the proffers for the development next week, at which point some of the proposed heights would probably change on the four proposed buildings.

As far as building taller buildings farther from the metro station is concerned, Baker said the first two Halstead buildings were among the first to be built in Merrifield redevelopment efforts. At the time those buildings were built, she said, the surrounding land uses were all industrial, and it did not seem appropriate to build taller buildings than currently exist. However, as the face of Merrifield changed, it became necessary to build higher. “We think [the proposed buildings] are compatible. The comprehensive plan permits those heights in that area,” she said.

Cate said she was not impressed with the project. Beside the lack of green space, she said she did not like the connectivity between the proposed development and the existing development around the site. She said the developer did not use all of the density it had available when building the first phase of the Halstead Mixed Use Development. However, Cavin said the developer would probably ask for density credit, so that it could build higher during the second phase of the development.