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Fairfax Corner Expansion Gets Approval

Planned are new residential, retail, office uses and hotel.

The Fairfax Corner shopping center already has a reputation as a hot destination for shopping, dining and having fun. And now, things will get even better.

Both the Fairfax County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors have just approved expansion plans which will bring seven new buildings and lots more parking to this popular shopping center. And executives with its developer, The Peterson Cos., couldn't be happier.

"We're pleased," said Paul Weinschenk, vice president, retail. "We think it's something that'll allow Fairfax Corner to grow and mature in a special sort of way, in terms of being a true, mixed-use project."

PETERSON IS actually implementing the already-approved Comprehensive Plan Amendment for the core area, involving office, residential and retail – and continuing the option of a hotel. However, it needed a rezoning to add 350 residential units and 636,000 square feet of nonresidential development.

The existing shops, restaurants, offices and movie theater constitute Phase I of the shopping center. Phase II will consist of:

* Two residential-only buildings containing multifamily units, flanking the Coastal Flats restaurant, and another residential-only building west of P.F. Chang’s and the pond by Monument Drive;

* Three buildings combining both office and retail, on either side of the theater, adjacent to Random Hills Road;

* One hotel containing retail uses; and

* Parking decks.

And it's all connected to the trail system running throughout the Government Center complex.

Parking decks will go on the east and west sides of the movie theater. And a new building in front of the east-side parking deck will house retail on the ground floor and office above it. A hotel is slated to be built in front of that building.

The shopping center currently has sufficient parking on the west side, but needs more on the east side. So the east-side parking deck will add 900 spaces; the surface parking there now has just 220 spaces.

Furthermore, two of the residential buildings will have in-ground parking, and the third will have both at- and above-ground parking. The two near Coastal Flats will have 2 1/2 levels of retail only and 1 1/2 levels of residential only.

THE SMALL SHOPS and restaurants envisioned for that section of Fairfax Corner are intended to extend the Main Street/town-center feel, east and west, to Government Center Parkway. They'll arise along Palace Way – the street in front of the theater – on both sides of the theater. So besides the existing main street, Grand Commons Avenue, Palace Way will become a second shopping and strolling street, with parallel parking on both sides.

Enhanced plaza treatments will also be a major focus of the project: "One will be in front of the Ruth's Chris Steakhouse building, and a plaza area will be added in front of new Building B — containing office and retail, west of the theater. Still another plaza is earmarked for the front of new Building C, between Building B and the theater.

A plaza with brick pavers and benches will be at the corner of Palace Way and Monument Wall Way, at the southeastern portion of the theater and adjacent to the new Building G-1, containing office and retail uses.

And a fountain or vertical, sculptural element is earmarked for the plaza in front of Building B. That plaza will also screen Fairfax Corner from the eventual, Metro support-site planned to the west of that building.

The heights of the various new buildings will be: Up to 14 stories on B and C (office and retail), up to 12 stories on G-1 (office and retail) and P-2 (hotel and retail), and up to eight stories on N, I and F-3 (residential only).

The office parking will be available for retail customers' use after hours. The 220 surface-parking spaces will be lost during construction of the G-1 structured parking area, east of the theater. But in the interim, valets will shuttle people back and forth from another lot. However, that won't happen until after this Christmas-shopping season.

ALL THE USES planned in Phase II will benefit Fairfax County, as well, by generating at least $3.15 million into the Fairfax Center Road Fund. Five percent of the homes will be ADUs (affordable dwelling units) and another 7 percent will be designated as workforce housing (for people making lower salaries).

"We are working toward starting some of the site work in early 2008," said Weinschenk. "We'll bring in a parking garage, additional retail and restaurants first; and we'll also add a hotel."

He said negotiations are currently underway with a particular restaurant and a hotel, and he anticipates that they'll be finalized soon. The residential component is planned for the future, as demand warrants.

The parking garage on the east side of the movie theater should be open in fall 2008. Said Weinschenk: "We know people have been frustrated [when they couldn't find a parking space], so we're working on easing that for them."

Additional office, retail and the hotel will follow. Some retail will be open in 2008, but most will debut in 2009.

Supervisor Elaine McConnell (R-Springfield) is also happy that there'll be a spot reserved in Fairfax Corner for the Metro. Overall, she said the expansion seems well-planned.

"I love this mixture of retail and residential — especially where people can live and work nearby and walk to these places," she said. "And I love the design of it — and the extra parking will really help, so I'm very pleased."

Furthermore, Weinschenk expects that, by Oct. 15, the walls surrounding Fairfax Corner's old fountain will come down and its new fountain will be unveiled.

"It allows us to meet the recently changed, county standards for fountains, and we've increased it's visual impact," he said. "It's pretty spectacular. People should come on out, grab an ice cream or a coffee, sit on a bench and enjoy."